Obama calls for Middle East peace talks despite obstacles

Published On: May 19 2011 04:53:46 AM CDT   Updated On: May 19 2011 04:53:00 AM CDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are made more difficult by the participation of Iran-backed Hamas in the Palestinian government.

Obama says the announcement that Hamas will be part of a unity government with the Fatah organization "raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel" because of Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. The U.S. has also designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

In his speech at the State Department Thursday, Obama said that Palestinian leaders will have to address the complication of Hamas with credible answers.

But the president also said that despite all the suspicion and hostility, he's convinced the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and so negotiations must happen.

PREVIOUS STORY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is defending sanctions against Syria's repressive leader and offering new financial help for nations that support democracy in his first comprehensive response to revolts across the Arab world.

In a speech Thursday at the State Department, Obama will try to erase any doubt that the U.S. stands behind a feverish call for change in North Africa and the Middle East.

The president plans to explain new sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad as the U.S. government toughens its message for the repressive leader.

Obama is also expected to announce aid for Egypt and Tunisia, the two nations seen as models while protests for freedoms elsewhere have been crushed.