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Obama vows to seek Mideast peace in first foreign call

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 11:33 IST

US President Barack Obama promised Mahmud Abbas to work toward a "durable peace" in the Middle East in what Palestinians said was his first call to a foreign leader on Wednesday.

Obama phoned the Palestinian leader a day after taking the oath of office and vowed "to work with him as partners to establish a durable peace in the region," Abbas's spokesman told AFP.

Abbas was the first foreign leader Obama called since taking office, spokesman Nabil Abu 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.

"He said he would deploy every possible effort to achieve peace as quickly as possible," the spokesman added.

"President Abbas urged him to work towards peace based on international resolutions," Abu Rudeina said.

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

There was no confirmation if Obama also called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

However, a close Abbas aide admitted surprise at the speed with which Obama moved.

"We were not expecting such a quick call from President Obama but we knew how serious he is about the Palestinian problem," said Yasser Abed Rabbo.

"The speed of the call is a message signalling to all concerned parties that the Palestinian people has one address and that's president Abbas."

The Islamist Hamas movement ousted Abbas' Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007, deepening divisions between the two camps.

"It also shows the level of seriousness that we hope to see translated into practice in the future," Abed Rabbo said.

"This message after the Israeli massacre in Gaza shows that President Obama realises that the only way out of this tragedy is a political settlement guaranteeing the rights of the Palestinian people."

He was referring to the 22-day Israeli assault on the strip that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, including at least 400 children.

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.