One question which really worries the Israelis is Iran. In your speech you didn't indicate whether stopping the nuclearisation of Iran is an American national goal which has to be fulfilled.
Well, keep in mind that I've been very clear on this in the past, and I will continue to be clear on the fact that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilising for the entire region. It is strongly in America's interest to prevent such a scenario.
But I believe it's in the interest of everybody in the region — indeed, I actually think it’s in Iran’s interest to prevent such a scenario, because it will be a very dangerous place if everybody decides that they need to have a nuclear weapon in the neighborhood, particularly given the conflicts that exist.
So my approach, as I’ve said, is to reach out to Iran to suggest talks without preconditions, and also to, as I said in my speech, to have a wide range of issues to discuss. But I want this not just to be an American effort, or an Israeli concern, but I think it’s an international concern. And as committed as I am to diplomacy, as I said in the White House just a few weeks ago, I’m not just going to talk just for talking sake. If I don’t see meaningful progress in these talks, then that will indicate to me that the Islamic Republic is not serious.
Thank you, President Obama. Of course, as an Indonesian, my first question would be when will you come to Indonesia?
Oh, I need to come to Indonesia soon. I expect to be travelling to Asia at some point within the next year and I would be surprised, if when I came to Asia, I did not stop by my old home town of Jakarta. And I’ll go visit Menteng Dalam and have some bakso — nasi goreng. These are some special dishes here that I used to eat when I was a kid.
In your speech, you made a reference to the conflicts which are poisoning the relations between the Muslim world and the West, and America in particular. You just came from a partner country, a strategic partner, Saudi Arabia. Did you develop any plans with King Abdullah, who will share the same views as you do so that you could work together in Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Well, I certainly discussed these issues with His Majesty. Saudi Arabia is obviously absolutely critical to solving a range of problems in the Middle East. It is an economic leader because of not only its oil wealth but also its broad-based development strategies. It is a thought leader and a religious leader because of Mecca and Medina.
And so if we are talking about Iraq, for example, I think normalising relations and exchanging ambassadors between Saudi Arabia and Iraq will be helpful to Iraq and its stabilisation. With respect to Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, we’re seeing a lot of displaced people. Making sure that there are resources that are put in place so that those displaced persons don’t experience enormous suffering, but also so that you don’t have further radicalisation of an entire population that has been uprooted because of conflict, Saudi Arabia is going to be critical.
So on all these issues, I think Saudi leadership is something that is desirable. I also happen to have what I consider, and I hope he considers as well, a very good and warm relationship with His Majesty. I think he is a very wise man and he is a very honest man, and I have great respect for him.
A question about the other audience who were not here at the gathering. You spoke to a very receptive, cheerful group. They also declared their love for you. But for the radicals, whom we need to address, Osama bin Laden is alive. They have their influence.
Yes, of course, yes, absolutely.
But they have their influence. What are you going to do about that? And a king like King Abdullah and others.
Well, al Qaeda we will defeat because they kill innocent people. And so I hope I’ve made that very clear. I am a strong believer in dialogue, but I don’t think that any nation should tolerate an international network that is willing to murder men and women and children who have done nothing.
That can’t be the basis for justice. That can’t be the basis for any governing ideology. I mean, who would live like that — that I decide somebody lives with a different religion or has a different skin color or looks like somebody that I don’t like, and I’m just going to go ahead and target them, deliberately? That philosophy is bankrupt.
Q: And so we will go after them.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, that’s not easy, obviously. And part of the reason it’s not easy is because they are adept at exploiting the very real tensions that exist that I discussed today.
So my audience is not them. I don’t expect to change their minds, obviously. My audience is, though, say, the 20-year-old young man in Cairo in maybe one of the poorer sections of Cairo or in Gaza or in Damascus or in Tripoli who is still searching, is still looking for a way. And my message to that young man or that young woman would be, it is possible for you to be true to your faith, true to your traditions, but instead of destroying you can build.
And if you see injustice, then the way to achieve the changes you seek is not through violence, but is through persuasion. And if I reach a few of those 20-year-olds or I reach their parents and maybe they have a conversation and debate with those young men and women, then perhaps that can make a difference when somebody tries to recruit that person to join an extremist organisation.
(Excerpts from roundtable interview of US President Barack Obama with regional reporters, Cairo University, Egypt, June 4, 2009)