Closing The Gap Between U.S., Muslim World

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif
From Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan, Islamic terrorists strike every day, widening the gap between the United States and the Muslim world.

With his planned address from Cairo on Thursday, President Barack Obama hopes he can bridge that divide and send a message of peace to the Muslim world, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

His speech, Egypt's Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told us today in an exclusive interview, could not come at a more critical moment.

"Time is working against us," Nazif said. "I think time is of the essence - we need to work fast and this is the message we've been getting from the administration. They're hopeful to see something - see something before the end of this year and I think it's very important that it would happen in the first year of this administration."

What he's talking about first and foremost is the creation of a Palestinian state - an end to violence between Israel and the Palestinians - and how much pressure President Obama will be willing to put on Israel's conservative prime minister to achieve that.

"The Israeli-Palestinian issue is the core - you solve this problem and you'll find that many other issues have to fall in line," Nazif said.

Iran is the next critical issue, but not just its nuclear ambitions. Prime Minister Nazif admitted Iran's support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza is causing alarm.

"We're very worried about what has been happening so far - the influence with Hezbollah, with even with Hamas," Nazif said. "And events in Iraq has worried us a lot."

Iran's ambitions for regional power may trouble Arab governments, but more than anything, they're looking for changes in the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

President Obama said recently that an Arab-Israeli peace will facilitate and precede a solution to the problem of Iran, showing that he is all too aware of the priorities on the Arab street. Or, as one Arab commentator put it: The sole bridge to reconciliation is a Palestinian state.

The Arab world expects a lot of this president - from pulling out of Iraq, to ending torture to closing Guantanamo Bay. Failure to achieve all this could be disastrous for Obama. But even worse? If he wasn't trying to reach out to Muslims.

"I think it would be catastrophic," Nazif said. "I think that we have been in a downturn for so long, we're creating beds for terrorists to flourish."

"Beds for terrorists to flourish?" Logan asked.

"That's true," Nazif said.

Terrorists who are threatened by Obama's popularity amongst Muslims, who do not want America's President to succeed.

  • Lara Logan
    Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.