CAIRO — Muslim shopkeepers, students and even radical groups such as Hamas praised President Barack Obama's address Thursday as a positive shift in U.S. attitude and tone. But Arabs and Muslims of all political stripes said they want him to turn his words into action _ particularly in standing up to Israel.
Obama impressed Muslims with his humility and respect and they were thrilled by his citing of Quranic verses. Aiming to repair ties with the Muslim world that had been strained under his predecessor George W. Bush, he opened with the traditional Arabic greeting "Assalamu Aleikum," which drew enthusiastic applause from his audience at Cairo University.
Even some extremist Web sites, which have carried statements from al-Qaida in the past, gave rare praise for Obama by calling him a "wise enemy." One posting on a chat room expressed admiration for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton "wearing a head scarf ... and she and Obama taking off their shoes" during a visit to Cairo's Sultan Hassan mosque.
Mohammed Zakarneh, a 33-year-old former fugitive militant in the West Bank town of Jenin, said Obama's speech "planted seeds of hope in our hearts, as Arabs and Muslims."
Obama's address touched on many themes Muslims wanted to hear. He insisted Palestinians must have a state and said continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank is not legitimate. He assured them the U.S. would pull all it troops out of Iraq by 2012 and promised no permanent U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
But at the top of his priorities, he put the battle against violent extremism. And he was faulted for not apologizing for U.S. wars in Muslim countries.
The Iranian government, which Obama is trying to draw into a dialogue, was silent. But state television described the speech as: "Too many words. Attractive but unbelievable."
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said there was change in tone. But he complained that Obama did not specifically mention the suffering in Gaza following the Israeli incursion this year that killed more than 1,000 Palestinians.
"There is a change between the language of President Obama and previous speeches made by George Bush," he said. "So all we can say is that there is a difference in the statements, and the statements of today did not include a mechanism that can translate his wishes and views into actions," said Barhoum, whose group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.
But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate who rivals Hamas for leadership of the Palestinians, welcomed Obama's words.
"The part of Obama's speech regarding the Palestinian issue is an important step under new beginnings," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said. "It shows there is a new and different American policy toward the Palestinian issue."
In Gaza, a Palestinian living with his wife and nine children in two tents after their home was razed in the Israeli offensive this year, cringed at Obama's demand that Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist.
"For a man like me, who has been terrorized by Israel, who has lost his home because of Israel ... he ignored my suffering, and he started talking about their (Israelis') rights and that Hamas and the Palestinians should recognize Israel," said Mohammed Khader, 47, after watching Obama on a generator-powered TV set. "Unbelievable."
In a traditional Ramallah coffee shop, middle-aged men watched the speech on TV while they puffed on cigarettes or water pipes. Some even put their card and backgammon games on hold to follow along.
Customer Basel Abul Abed said it was a turning point.
"His real problem will be with Israel, not with Arabs and not with Muslims," he said. "We are waiting for Mr. Obama's real work. Next time we see him, we want him to congratulate us for our Palestinian state."
Another customer, 56-year-old Mohammed Sbeih, said: "His point in the speech of recognizing the Palestinians suffering is a positive point. But if the Palestinians have to abandon violence, Israel will have to as well. "
A joint statement by eight Syrian-based radical Palestinian factions, including Hamas, was harsher.
"Obama's speech is an attempt to mislead people and create more illusions to improve America's aggressive image in the Arab and Islamic world," it said.
The message for Israel was mixed. Obama strongly endorsed the U.S. alliance with the Jewish state but harshly criticized its West Bank settlement policy. The director of Israel's government press office, Danny Seaman, said the speech was "not bad."
Before the address, many Muslims said one of the things they wanted to hear most from Obama was respect for Islam. And many said he delivered.
"It was very good of him to address Muslims by quoting from holy Quran, something I did not expect in his speech," said Osama Ahmed Sameh, a 45-year-old Iraqi government employee at the Ministry of Higher Education.
In Egypt, Shahinda al-Bahgouri, a 20-year-old student at Cairo University where Obama spoke, was also impressed.
"All we want as Muslims is for there to be a partnership," she said. "And he was seriously humble. Humility is important for us."
In Syria, political analyst Imad Shouaibi said: "It is a speech with a different language from what we used to hear. This is a positive thing."
Sheik Muhammad al-Nujaimi, member of the committee in charge of rehabilitating Saudi militants, said he is going to tell the militants Muslims should offer help to the new American administration and reciprocate its overtures.
"Americans are a civilized people. The previous president didn't represent them. Today, there's a new president who's using a new language and wants a new world in place. We should give him a chance and not open up a new front that will lead to the failure of his plan."
Zahid Husain Gardezi, a 50-year-old landowner in the Pakistani city of Multan, was pleased by Obama's warmth.
"It is the first time I have ever heard such affectionate words from an American for Muslims," he said."
Arab satellite stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, as well as Egyptian TV broadcast the speech live, with a voice-over Arabic translation.
Lebanese Hezbollah officials said they didn't watch Obama's speech although the group's Al-Manar TV carried it live. The station's newscast described it as "historic" _ a rare acknowledgment from a mouthpiece of the militant Shiite group. But the approval was tinged with criticism, saying Obama spoke to the Muslim world more like a "preacher" and did not distance himself from the pro-Israeli lobbyists.
Syrian state TV did not air the speech but the mobile text messaging service of the official Syrian news agency SANA sent four urgent headlines on it as Obama spoke.
Afghanistan's state television broadcast the speech live, but without translation so few could understand it.
At a Kabul restaurant, diner Ahmad Khalid watched the speech on TV and said Obama's words should turn into action. The Americans "should not do what they are doing in Muslim countries," he said.
Iranian television did not air Obama and most Iranians who own satellite dishes could not watch it as their reception was jammed.
In Iran, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a cleric who was vice president under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, called the speech "compensation for a hostile environment which was created during President Bush."
Political commentator Ali Reza Khamesian said Obama's acknowledgment of Iran's right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was "a step forward for better ties with the United States."
Before the speech, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any statements by Obama were just "words, speech and slogan" without specific measures by Washington, such as lifting sanctions on Iran.
In Iraq, the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr _ whose militia fighters waged fierce battles with the Americans before a cease-fire in 2007 _ was skeptical U.S. policy would change.
"The honeyed and flowery speeches express only one thing _ that America wants to adopt a different attitude in subduing the world and putting it under its control and globalization," al-Sadr said in a statement.
Some Iraqis were disappointed that Obama did not express remorse for his predecessor's war on Iraq.
"I think there should have been apologies from him for the deaths and misery caused by wrong American policies against Muslims, whether it be in our region or in other places," said Baghdad engineer Muhsin Karim, 45.
Mohammed Ali, 40, a Shiite cleric from Najaf, was reassured by Obama that the U.S. is committed to getting out of Iraq.
"Listening to Obama's speech, I became more assured that the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq will be implemented and that the new U.S. administration is committed to help Iraq," he said.
Others were critical.
Wahyudin, the 57-year-old director of a hard-line Islamic boarding school in Jakarta, Indonesia, said "I don't trust him."
"He's just trying to apologize to Muslims because of what America _ or really Bush _ has done in the past," said Wahyudin, who goes by one name. "He's promising to be different. But that's all it is, a promise. We want action. We want to see an end to all intervention in Muslim countries. That's what we're fighting for."
In Pakistan, where the U.S. believes many top al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden may be hiding, citizens were generally skeptical that American deeds would match Obama's soaring words.
"Whatever wounds America has inflicted on the world, they are very deep and they cannot be erased away by only one speech," political analyst Siraj Wahab told Aaj TV.
Hamayon Raza, a pharmacy owner in Multan, pointed to a Pakistani army offensive against the Taliban in the northwest Swat Valley that has displaced up to 3 million people and blamed it on Obama.
"The American president has fooled Muslims," Raza said. "Whatever has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Pakistan, who would believe Obama's words?"
Associated Press reporters from the Middle East, Asia and Europe contributed to this report.