CAIRO — Egypt's president praised President Barack Obama on Wednesday, saying his outreach to the Muslim world is a welcome change from the policies of his predecessor.
President Hosni Mubarak's comments were his first since Obama delivered a speech last week in Cairo aimed at improving relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world that were strained under former President George W. Bush.
"In the previous administration, there was a feeling that Islam is a group of terrorists, Islam is hated and a Muslim should be watched over," said Mubarak in an interview with Egyptian television in the southern city of Aswan.
Obama "sympathizes and says Islam is a heavenly religion like other religions," he said.
The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. during Bush's time in office was often strained because of the administration's push for democracy in the region. Obama stressed the benefits of democracy in his speech but said it could not be imposed by any one nation.
Obama also pushed for Israelis and Palestinians to work toward a peace deal based on a two-state solution, an effort Mubarak urged everyone in the region to support.
"Obama understands the issue and will do his best," said Mubarak. "We must help him and the Israelis must help too."
Obama has pushed Israel to commit to the creation of a Palestinian state and stop settlement construction in the West Bank, taking what many have described as a harder line than his predecessors. But Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has refused to agree to either demand.
"President Obama is someone who differs from the other presidents of the United States," said Mubarak.