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"Persistence" key in US foreign policy, Obama says

President Barack Obama said tonight that “persistence” would be a hallmark of his foreign policy, and that short term setbacks in the Middle East would not dissuade him from trying to engage Muslim nations in a productive peace process.

“I am a big believer in persistence,” Obama said. Americans should get used to the word, he said, because they will hear it a lot in the next four years.

In an hour-long, prime-time, televised press conference that almost exclusively focused on the current economic woes (the press did not ask him about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) Obama did promise to help Mexico combat its violent drug cartels, and he told Chinese leaders that the dollar is doing just fine as a stable and attractive currency.

Obama also noted that the path toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is “not easier” in the wake of the Israeli elections, and the formation of a rightward-leaning government there.

But the new president urged Americans to be patient, and explained a bit of his personal philosophy.

“That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I’m going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come, as long as I am in this office,” he said.

Obama noted how, after he sent a warm video greeting to Iranians celebrating their new year last week, he was scolded by critics, and his initiative declared a failure when Iran did not “immediately say there were eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism.”

“Well we didn’t expect that,” Obama said. What he does expect is “that we are going to make steady progress on this front.”

“We’ve been in office now a little over 60 days,” the president said. “This is a big ocean liner. It is not a speedboat. It doesn’t turn around immediately.”

When addressing the chaos in Mexico, Obama promised to take the necessary steps to prevent “a spill over of violence” into the United States, and said there was work for Americans to do, stopping the flow of money and weapons to the drug cartels.

And he brushed aside China’s suggestion that a new international currency, replacing the dollar, might be part of the reforms instituted as a result of the current economic crisis. “Investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world with the most stable political system in the world,” he said. “I don’t believe there is a need for a global currency.”