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Obama On Mideast: "Moment Is Now" To Act

President Obama called Friday for a redoubling of efforts toward separate Israeli and Palestinian states, saying "the moment is now for us to act on what we all know to be the truth."

After meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the U.S. president said: "the United States can't force peace upon the parties. But what we've tried to do is clear away some of the misunderstandings."

At a joint news conference with his German counterpart, Mr. Obama said: "The United States can't force peace upon the parties." But he said America has "at least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can restart." (Read the full transcript of their remarks.)

Mr. Obama announced that he was sending special envoy George J. Mitchell back to the region next week to follow up on his own speech in Cairo a day earlier, in which he sought to begin mending the United State's deeply flawed image in the Muslim world.

He called in his speech for both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to give ground in the longtime standoff toward the elusive goal of peace in the Middle East.

The president said while the entire international community is going to have to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace, "ultimately the parties involved have to make the decision that the prosperity and security of their people are best served" by an accord. He stressed that the effort would take time, but added: "I'm confident that if we stick with it, having started early this year, we are going to make some progress on it."

Merkel, for her part, promised to cooperate in her own right on this long-sought goal.

After urging Israel and the Palestinians to find a way to compromise, the president made a point Friday to highlight the example of post-war Europe, reported CBS News correspondent Richard Roth.

"You now have a unified Europe and a Germany that is a very close ally of Israel," Mr. Obama said Friday, hoping the imagery would prompt the parties in the Mideast to envision a future without the horrors of warfare.

On other matters, Mr. Obama said he's seen "some progress" in bringing stability to the world in the wake of the deep recession that has crisscrossed the continents in recent months, and said he and Merkel agreed that they must continue to "work very closely together" to restore their economies and those of other nations as well. He also said he didn't seek any commitments from Germany as the United States seeks to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and determines what to do with the terrorism suspects there.

The two leaders spoke after meeting privately at a castle in Dresden, a city crushed by allied bombing in World War II when it was in East Germany. He later toured the Buchenwald concentration camp, where an estimated 56,000 people perished. Most were Jews - worked to death, shot or hanged by Nazi guards.

"More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished," said Mr. Obama. "I will not forget what I've seen here today." (Click here to read Mark Knoller's account of the visit.)

His symbolic tour of Buchenwald follows a scathing indictment in his Cairo speech of those who question the Holocaust. Mr. Obama said that to do so "is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful."

"Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve," Mr. Obama added. It was a pointed message to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has expressed doubts that 6 million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and who has urged that Israel be wiped from the map.

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