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Obama Seeks to Clarify His Image With Jewish Voters

(CBS)
From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

WASHINGTON -- Despite having just clinched the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama is still weary of rumors circulating on the internet about his background. While addressing a predominately Jewish audience at the annual American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) conference here today, Obama jokingly dismissed e-mails claiming that he is Muslim and unpatriotic.

"They're filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President. And all I want to say is, let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening," Obama joked but he quickly took a more serious tone.

"If anyone has been confused by these emails, I want you to know that today I'll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel."

Obama has acknowledged that the hard-fought primary with Hillary Clinton was most likely just a preview to what a general election against John McCain may be like. Today, he seemed to be on the offensive, trying to address what he believes are misconceptions about his background and his policies. He spoke to the crowd about his position on diplomatic talks with Iran, which he says have been willfully mischaracterized by his opponents.

"Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing, if, and only if, it can advance the interests of the United States."

Obama also clarified a story about his great uncle, which he has gotten some heat over in the past week.

At a Memorial Day event in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Obama told a group of veterans that his great uncle helped liberate Auschwitz. His critics were quick to point out that the story had to be false since it was the Russian Army that liberated the camp. Although Obama's campaign called this a blunder and corrected the story, Obama clarified it head on today.

"My great uncle had been a part of the 89th Infantry Division, the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, on an April day in 1945," Obama said, "The horrors of that camp go beyond our capacity to imagine."

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