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Obama lauds Clinton aide accused of Islamist ties (JERUSALEM POST) By REUTERS 08/11/12) Source: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=280843
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WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Friday called Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an "American patriot" after a group of Republican lawmakers accused her of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political organization.
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"She has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear," Obama said at a White House Iftar dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
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"The American people owe her a debt of gratitude because Huma is an American patriot and an example of what we need in this country -- more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace and her generosity of spirit."
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In June, Representative Michele Bachmann along with four other Republican lawmakers questioned Abedin´s security clearance in a letter to the State Department´s inspector general. They suggested members of her family had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the writers said may be seeking access to high levels of the US government.
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"If my family members were associated with Hamas, a terrorist organization, that alone could be sufficient to disqualify me from getting a security clearance," Bachmann said on conservative host Glenn Beck´s talk show.
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Abedin, a Muslim, was seated on Obama´s right at the dinner and appeared visibly moved as the president spoke to a room full of religious leaders, elected officials and diplomats.
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Senior Republicans in Congress, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and former presidential candidate John McCain, have rallied to Abedin´s defense in recent weeks.
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Greater participation of female athletes at the Olympics was another focus of Friday´s dinner. Obama noted that for the first time in Olympic history each team included a woman.
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"One of the reasons is that every team from a Muslim-majority country now includes women as well," he said.
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Since taking office, Obama has focused on strengthening ties with the Muslim world. At a speech in Cairo in 2009 he called for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" based on "mutual interest and mutual respect."
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Friday´s dinner takes place amid a time of seminal change in the Middle East - home to over 300 million of the world´s 1.5 billion Muslims. Over the past year, revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have felled decades of authoritarian rule, tensions with Iran continue to escalate and a bloody 17-month uprising in Syria shows no signs of abating.
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Thomas Jefferson held the first known White House Iftar in 1805, a sunset dinner in honor of Tunisia´s envoy in Washington.
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Highlights from Friday´s menu two centuries later included greens from the White House kitchen garden with a tarragon dressing, a spiced Middle Eastern crisp bread called lavash, thyme roasted chicken and sesame halvah crunch for dessert. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 08/12/12)
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