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In Mideast, Obama faces tough crowd: Here's what they want to hear

The president stopped in Saudi Arabia, where 79 percent of residents view him favorably, on Wednesday. But in Cairo tomorrow, he'll address a skeptical audience of 1.4 billion Muslims.

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Ahmad al-Shugairi, host of a popular Saudi television show about Islam, gets excited just imagining the idea: If he had the chance, what would he advise US President Obama to say in his address to the Muslim world on Thursday?

"I've dreamed of being his adviser," enthuses Mr. Shugairi, as he begins listing ideas that "would hit home" with him.

Mr. Obama should "admit the United States has made mistakes"; emphasize that Americans have "a belief in God that is written on the US dollar"; and stress that Americans "respect all religious prophets, including [the prophet] Muhammad," says Shugairi, a resident of Jeddah. Obama stopped in Riyadh on Wednesday to meet the Saudi king.

When the US leader steps to the podium in Cairo June 4, his target audience will be the world's estimated 1.4 billion Muslims. They'll be listening with curiosity to the first American president with a Muslim father.

His toughest crowd, however, will be in the Middle East, where US foreign policies are most disliked. Obama's rhetoric has generated high expectations. But his reception here will be heavily salted with skepticism. Arabs wonder whether US policies will really change on core issues of concern to the region: US withdrawal from Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and political reform of authoritarian governments.

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