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US cannot impose its values on other nations: Obama

US President Barack Obama said that the United States cannot impose its values on other countries, but argued that principles such as democracy and the rule of law were universal. He also added that the US must lead by example, which meant closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on Cuba.

world Updated: Jun 02, 2009 08:08 IST

US President Barack Obama has said that the United States cannot impose its values on other countries, but argued that principles such as democracy and the rule of law were universal.

In an interview with the BBC ahead of a visit first to Saudi Arabia and Egypt and then Europe, Obama said the United States must lead by example -- which firstly meant closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on Cuba.

"The danger I think is when the United States or any country thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture," the president told the broadcaster.

But he stressed that "Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion -- those are not simply principles of the West to be hoisted on these countries, but rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity."

Obama said he would be 'encouraging' countries on his trip to promote these values, but added: "I think the thing that we can do most importantly is serve as a good role model.

"And that's why closing Guantanamo, from my perspective, as difficult as it is, is important.

"Because part of what we want to affirm to the world is that these are values that are important even when it's hard, even especially when it's hard, and not just when it's easy.