- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

ANKARA, TURKEY (AP) - It was a bit out of the norm for the U.S. president on a whirlwind overseas trip; Barack Obama actually had a little wiggle room in his schedule.

He spent at least five full minutes writing his inscription in a visitor’s book in a small room at Anitkabir, mausoleum of the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, in Turkey’s capital.

“I am honored to pay tribute to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a man whose vision, tenacity and courage put the Republic of Turkey on the path of democracy and whose legacy continues to inspire generations around the world,” Obama wrote, his handwriting small and neat.

Obama also penned a larger message intended for the predominantly Muslim country, writing: “As the 44th President of the United States of America I look forward to strengthening relations between the U.S. and Turkey and supporting Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as a modern and prosperous democracy giving hope to its people and providing ‘peace at home, peace in the world’.”

Obama also signed and dated the message.

As he walked out of the brown sandstone structure at the top of a hill in the bowl-shaped city, he briefly greeted U.S. embassy and military officials and then headed to his limo in the awaiting motorcade.

Then, apparently surprising his onlookers, he turned back and approached the more than two dozen Americans, saying: “I thought we were in a hurry but I got a little time.”

The group cheered, and Obama spent a few minutes shaking hands, mindful not to skip over anyone.


You probably could have heard a pin drop.

The Turkish parliament’s chamber was almost completely silent throughout much of Obama’s 25 minute speech even though there were plenty of parts for the predominantly Muslim country to cheer. The speech was intended to give Turkey a boost on the world stage and, particularly in Europe, and Obama peppered it with compliments and encouragement.

Yet, with the exception of two instances, there was no applause or reaction until the end.

At one point, there was a smattering of polite clapping when Obama said the United States supports the Turkish government’s battle against PKK, which both consider a terrorist group. There was some twittering again when he declared that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam, and when he mentioned his time living in a Muslim nation.

Obama spoke from a small white, marble and teak rostrum in the well of the vast, airy chamber. It was packed with Turkish lawmakers, who filled the sea of orange leather chairs.

Earlier, he met with parliament leaders, including members of the opposition party.


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