President Obama today called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

In his much-anticipated speech in Cairo, Obama also urged Islamic nations to embrace democracy, women’s rights, religious tolerance and the right of Israel to co-exist with an independent Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported.

Obama traveled to the Middle East this week seeking to change Muslim perceptions of the United States. Today’s speech was before an audience of hundreds in a dorm hall at Cairo University.

“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity,” he was quoted as told the crowd. “This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

Even as Obama spoke, the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera aired new excerpts of an audiotape message issued yesterday by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, urging Muslims to “brace yourselves for a long war against the world’s infidels and their agents,” the Post reported.

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