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President Obama and French President Sarkozy emerge to address media prior to a town hall meeting in France last week (White House Photo)

JERUSALEM – A Syrian national was arrested in connection with a plot to assassinate President Obama during a key speech he is set to deliver tomorrow, a Saudi newspaper claimed today.

The newspaper, al-Watan, reported Turkish security services arrested a Turkish resident of Syrian origins Friday who confessed to a plot to stab the U.S. president with a knife during his speech tomorrow to the U.N.’s Alliance of Civilizations summit in Istanbul. The man allegedly told interrogators he was working with at least three other people to execute his assassination attempt.

The man reportedly was carrying an Al-Jazeera television identity card. The Saudi report stated Turkish authorities were investigating whether the press card was a fake or whether it had actually been issued by the Qatari-based news network.

According to the report, the man, whose name was not released, had been in attendance at several events posing as an Al Jazeera journalist.

Al-Jazeera’s bureau chief in Ankara, Yucef al-Sharif, said news of the suspect came as a complete surprise to Al-Jazeera staff in Turkey. He said Al Jazeera knew nothing about the man.

“We learned that (the suspect) claimed to be working for our bureau. … If that has been the case then he most certainly forged our ID card,” al-Sharif told the al-Watan newspaper in a phone call from Ankara.

Obama courts ‘West haters’?

Obama is in Turkey today, where he addressed the country’s parliament and called for normalization of relations between the U.S. and the Muslim nation.

His address tomorrow to the Alliance of Civilizations has prompted concern from some critics, who are painting the organization as anti-Western and advocating Iranian interests.

“The Alliance might more appropriately be called a U.N.-approved Slush Fund for Advancing Iranian and Other Islamic Interests,” wrote Claudia Rosett, a Forbes contributor and journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

A separate report by the Heritage Foundation labeled the Alliance forum “well-intentioned” but with little prospect for success due to “bias and objectionable proposals to freedom of expression.” The report was titled “Why President Obama should not attend the Alliance of Civilizations forum.”

The organization was formed in 2005 as an offshoot of the Dialogue of Civilizations, an earlier U.N. project founded by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who is still a member of the Alliance.

Other Alliance member states or participating organizations include China; the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the Arab League; Turkey; and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization. Not on the list is Israel.

In 2006, the Alliance released a 63-page official report largely laying blame on the West for negative perceptions of Muslims and Islam. The report only mentioned Islamic terrorism once – in its recommendations section where it suggested the Western media should not use the term terrorism.

The Western media should refrain from using certain terms in reporting on Muslims and Islam, the report recommended, “including the use of terms such as ‘Islamic terrorism’ and ‘Islamic fascism’ – [which] have contributed to an alarming increase in Islamophobia which further exacerbates Muslim fears of the West.”

Jorge Sampaio, U.N. high representative for the Alliance, declared at a press conference in Iran last year that freedom of speech should be balanced with respect for religion.

“There is a balance to be found between freedom of expression and respect for religion and for religious feelings and principles,” he said.

According to Iranian state-run television, Sampaio also told Supreme Islamic Revolution Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei that Iran “has an important role to play within the Alliance of Civilizations because of its unique cultural and religious makeup.”

Iran’s Khatami, meanwhile, has reportedly been actively involved with shaping the Alliance agenda. Also, as Rosett pointed out, Khatami entered the U.S. in 2006 for an Alliance meeting and used his U.N.-sponsored trip to stay in the country for another two weeks. During that time he embarked on a speaking tour that saw him denounce America and keynote a Washington fundraising dinner for the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

Wrote Rosett: “From U.S. soil, thanks to an Alliance entry ticket, Khatami served broadly as a prominent spokesman for Iran’s interests – just as Iran was thumbing its nose at U.S. efforts, via the U.N. Security Council, to put a stop to Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear bomb fuel.”

Alliance hails ‘anti-Israel’ Arab plan

The Alliance’s 2006 report, reviewed by WND, seemed to focus disproportionately on Israel. It painted a picture that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is largely to blame for much of the violence in the Middle East.

The report recognizes the importance of a so-called “Arab Peace Initiative,” which defenders of Israel warn would leave the Jewish state with truncated, difficult-to-defend borders and could threaten Israel’s Jewish character by compelling it to accept millions of foreign Arabs.

Following scores of denials he would trumpet the plan, Obama in January hailed the Arab initiative, which offers normalization of ties with the Jewish state in exchange for extreme Israeli concessions.

In an interview with an Arab television network – his first formal interview as president – Obama stated: “Well, here’s what I think is important. Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. … I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage to put forward something that is as significant as that. I think that there are ideas across the region of how we might pursue peace. I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The Arab Initiative, originally proposed by King Abdullah in 2002 and later adopted by the Arab League, states that Israel would receive “normal relations” with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Temple Mount.

The West Bank contains important Jewish biblical sites and borders central Israeli population centers, while the Golan Heights looks down on Israeli civilian zones and was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.

The Arab plan also demands the imposition of a non-binding U.N. resolution that calls for so-called Palestinian refugees who wish to move inside Israel to be permitted to do so at the “earliest practicable date.”

Palestinians have long demanded the “right of return” for millions of “refugees,” a formula Israeli officials across the political spectrum warn is code for Israel’s destruction by flooding the Jewish state with millions of Arabs, thereby changing its demographics.

When Arab countries attacked the Jewish state after its creation in 1948, some 725,000 Arabs living within Israel’s borders fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel. Also at that time, about 820,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries or fled following rampant persecution.

While most Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel and other countries, the majority of Palestinian Arabs have been maintained in 59 U.N.-run camps that do not seek to settle the Arabs elsewhere. There are currently about 4 million Arabs who claim Palestinian refugee status with the U.N., including children and grandchildren of the original fleeing Arabs, Arabs living full-time in Jordan, and Arabs who long ago emigrated throughout the Middle East and to the West.

 


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