Obama to host summit for Muslim entrepreneurs

Obama will lay a key plank of his strategy to mend ties with the Islamic world on Monday when he hosts a summit to boost economic development in Muslim nations.

Obama to host summit for Muslim entrepreneurs

President Barack Obama will lay a key plank of his strategy to mend ties with the Islamic world on Monday when he hosts a summit to boost economic development in Muslim nations.

The president will address the summit at the end of the first day to underscore his commitment to "deepening our engagement around the world with Muslim-majority communities," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.

In a step the White House hopes will help shift relations beyond decades of talk about "terrorism" and conflict, Obama will bring entrepreneurs from 50 countries to Washington on Monday and Tuesday to spur economic ties.

"This is not simply an exercise in public outreach or public diplomacy," said Ben Rhodes, one of Obama's top national security advisors. "We believe that this is the beginning of forging kind of very tangible partnerships in a critical area."

The president pledged to host the summit in a landmark speech in Cairo last June, when he also called for a "new beginning" to relations between the United States and the Islamic world.

"One of the principal goals of that vision was to broaden our relationship, which has been dominated by a few different issues, a small set of issues, for at least the last decade, and going back further than that," an administration official said ahead of the meeting.

"We don't see this as a replacement for our work on things like Middle East peace or work on counter-terrorism, our work on Iran. We see this as part of establishing a more multifaceted set of relationships. It is yet another pillar."

Around 250 entrepreneurs will attended the summit from countries across the Muslim world -- where America's image is tarnished by invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Obama is expected to discuss ways of improving access to capital, funding for technology innovation and exchange programs, as the United States tries to better its image in the eyes of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.

The two-day entrepreneurial summit brings together a diverse group of people ages 20 to 79, "everybody from ... the Davos crowd to people that are not traditionally invited to things like this," said one senior administration official.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and other senior U.S. officials will participate in sessions alongside private sector experts like Yahoo! chief executive Jerry Yang, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus and Arif Naqvi, head of Abraaj Capital, the largest private equity firm in the Middle East.

The aim is to bring together successful business and social entrepreneurs from different countries, venture capitalists, development bankers and other business experts to discuss ideas and share experiences with a view toward creating support networks that will help promote development in the region.

The White House has urged groups outside the government to participate by organizing their own related events, and that has spawned more than 30 other sessions by such groups as the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Arab Empowerment and the Middle East Youth Initiative at Brookings.

As part of Obama's plan the United States is poised to award contracts through its multi-million-dollar Global Technology and Innovation Fund, designed to spur investments in the Muslim world.

A recent BBC World Service poll of attitudes in 28 countries showed that Turks and Pakistanis still overwhelmingly believe the United States is a negative influence on the world.

The failure to broker a Middle East peace and still-bloody occupations in Muslim countries loom large.


Agencies

Last Mod: 26 Nisan 2010, 17:50
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