Video: Obama vows to tackle Middle East 'on day one'
WASHINGTON — US president-elect Barack Obama on Sunday vowed to take swift action on the Middle East peace process and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In an interview with ABC's This Week program broadcast Sunday, Obama defended his reluctance to speak out on Israel's bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip before he succeeds President George W. Bush on January 20.
Obama said he was building a diplomatic team so that "on day one, we have the best possible people who are going to be immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process as a whole."
The team would "be engaging with all of the actors there" so that "both Israelis and Palestinians can meet their aspirations," Obama said.
Under the Bush administration, the United States has been accused by the Palestinians of siding uncritically with Israel at the expense of the peace process.
Obama stood by his words of July, during a visit to Israel, when he had said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
Obama meanwhile took note of a warning from former US defense secretary William Perry Thursday that he would likely face a "serious crisis" over Iran's nuclear ambitions in his first year in office.
"I think that Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges," the president-elect said, warning a nuclear-armed Iran "could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East."
Obama promised "a new emphasis on respect and a new emphasis on being willing to talk, but also a clarity about what our bottom lines are."
"And we are in preparations for that. We anticipate that we're going to have to move swiftly in that area."
Wire services contributed to this report.
This video is from ABC's This Week, broadcast Jan. 11, 2009.
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