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US President Barack Obama
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Abbas. First leader called
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Olmert. Moved by Obama's speech
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Obama calls Abbas, Olmert on first day
New US president tells Palestinian counterpart he will work towards 'durable peace' in Middle East

US President Barack Obama promised to work towards a "durable peace" in the Middle East during a phone call to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said.

 

Later Obama called Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who told the newly inaugurated president that Israel had been moved by his inauguration speech on Tuesday.

 

Obama called the two leaders a day after taking the oath of office. He assured Abbas that he intended "to work with him as partners to establish a durable peace in the region," Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

 

Obama told Abbas that the president was the first foreign leader he called since taking office, Rudeina said.

 

"This is my first phone call to a foreign leader and I'm making it only hours after I took office," Rudeina quoted Obama as telling Abbas.

 

During the conversation with Olmert, the prime minister briefed Obama on the status of Gaza. He expressed hope that Israeli, Egyptian, US and European efforts would succeed in halting the arms smuggling into the Strip from Egypt, so that a more stable ceasefire could emerge and lead the way to peace with the Palestinians.

 

Olmert added that Israel would invest an additional effort in supplying humanitarian aid to the Strip, as well as in improving the financial situation of Palestinians residing in the West Bank.

 

Obama and his secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton vowed to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict immediately after taking office.

 

During his inauguration speech on Tuesday, Obama pledged a new approach to the Muslim world. "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he said.

 

AFP contributed to this report

 

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