RIYADH. — US President Donald Trump was expected to underline the need to confront extremism in Islam in his speech in Saudi Arabia late yesterday.
Speaking in the Saudi capital Riyadh, he said the fight against extremism was not “a battle between different faiths” but “a battle between good and evil”.
Trump, who is on his first official trip abroad, was to deliver the speech at a summit of regional leaders.
His harsh campaign rhetoric on Muslims stirred concern in the Islamic world.
The excerpts from a leaked version of his speech suggested a softer tone with Trump attempting to bolster support for the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.
Trump was expected to say: “Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity.
“If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.”
He was also expected to call on Middle Eastern countries to do more themselves to stamp out extremism, and not count on the US to counter the likes of IS.
“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children,” he was expected to say.
The leaked texts did not include the controversial phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”. In the past, he has criticised his predecessor, Barack Obama, and others for not employing these terms, considered offensive by many Muslims.
President Trump’s keynote speech to more than 40 leaders of Muslim nations takes him into risky territory. White House briefers say it would be uplifting, inspirational and unifying, but also blunt. He was expected to tell governments they need to do more to stamp out religious intolerance and extremism.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states represented at the conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh are involved in the fight against IS, but have been accused of backing the group and other Sunni militants – most notably in a 2014 email by Hillary Clinton released by Wikileaks. They are now expected to sign a deal with the US to co-ordinate their efforts aimed at cutting off sources of money for those groups. Those countries include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“The unique piece of it is that every single one of them are signatories on how they’re responsible and will actually prosecute the financing of terrorism, including individuals,” said Dina Powell, US Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy.
In a separate development, on Saturday, the US signed trade deals of $350bn (£270bn) with Saudi Arabia.
This included the largest arms deal ever made in US history, according to the White House. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was aimed at countering the “malign” influence of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.
Trump’s eight-day trip will also take in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Brussels, the Vatican, and Sicily. — BBC/HR.