WASHINGTON - The next U.S. president should speak out for better relations with the Muslim world in his inaugural address and pursue an accord between Israel and the Palestinians within three months of taking office, a diverse coalition of 34 former U.S. officials and civic leaders said in a report being issued Wednesday.
The proposals, which include diplomatic engagement with Iran, are designed to reverse Muslim extremism and enhance U.S. international security. They are based on the conclusion that improving U.S. relations with Muslim countries and communities is critical, the report said.
Also, it said, the new president should reaffirm immediately a U.S.commitment to prohibit all forms of torture.
On promoting democracy among the Arabs, a hallmark of President George W. Bush's foreign policy, the report envisioned a cautious role for the United States: improving governance and civic participation without imposing a particular set of institutions, parties or leaders.
Bush's war on terror, the report said, has been inadequate and sometimes counterproductive. It recommends "partnership" with Muslims committed to nonviolent political and economic development to reverse extremism and promote reform within authoritarian governments.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; Stephen Heintz, president of Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of America; were among members of the group.
"Few challenges matter more than reducing distrust and misunderstanding between the United States and people living in Muslim majority states," Albright said in a statement accompanying the report.
Armitage, meanwhile, said the United States "needs to make a significant shift in our relations with Muslim countries, relying more on diplomacy and helping to lay the foundation for democratic development."
Among the recommendations were expanding people-to-people exchanges and staging a business-government conference on economic reform, growth and job creation in the Middle East within the first six months of the new administration.