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Muslim countries must lead anti-terrorism battle: Trump

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In Saudi Arabia, US President gives first official speech to leaders abroad since inauguration

RIYADH Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalisation, US President Donald Trump said in a speech to leaders from 55 Muslim countries in Saudi Arabia yesterday.

He also said Arab nations had suffered the deadliest toll of "fanatical violence" and that there is a humanitarian and security disaster that is spreading in the region, Reuters reported.

In the grand King Abdulaziz Conference Centre, with crystal chandeliers and gold-rimmed side tables laden with snacks and sterling silver pens, the leaders listened to Mr Trump's first official speech to leaders abroad since his inauguration.

His speech at an Arab-Islamic-American summit marked a dramatic departure from the rhetoric during his presidential campaign - most notable was his deliberate decision not to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" as he pointedly did as a candidate, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Instead, he sought to draw a distinction between religion and terrorism.

It "is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilisations" but "a battle between good and evil", he said.

"Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death," Mr Trump said.

"Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear," he added.

"If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief and your soul will be fully condemned."

Mr Trump sought to underpin his pursuit of a renewed campaign against terrorism with new measures aimed at combating groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as countering Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

He said: "Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land."

The speech was part of an effort to redefine his relationship with the Muslim world after he frequently attacked Muslims on the campaign trail and tried to ban many from entering the US.

The approach was also designed to contrast with former president Barack Obama, whom Mr Trump has criticised for his handling of the fight against ISIS.

"We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship.

"But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong, and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfils their part of the burden... the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them," Mr Trump said.

Contrary to his predecessor in Cairo in 2009, Mr Trump did not issue the traditional greeting but insisted he was there to "deliver a message of friendship, hope and love".

He was welcomed by the Saudi King as a "friend" to his "second home" country of Saudi Arabia, and the King vowed to "confront this scourge (of terrorism) that poses a danger to all of humanity", the Independent Online reported.

Mr Trump called on all countries to work together to isolate Iran, accusing the Islamic republic of fuelling "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror".

"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it," he said.

donald trumpterrorismSaudi Arabia