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State monitoring Obama Arab reaction

From NBC's Libby Leist

Since President Obama's interview with Al Arabiya last night, State Department public diplomacy officials have been closely monitoring reaction in the Arab media -- TV, newspapers, radio and blogs -- to get a sense for how the interview is playing.

The State Department is busy preparing a report for the White House on what they've observed and, so far, the reaction has been a very positive one.

In reviewing Arab media commentary, officials say, two messages seem to have resonated: Obama's focus on listening and not dictating U.S. policy and his emphasis on the fact that he has lived in the Muslim world and has Muslim family members.

"I think that his mention of his familiarity with the Muslim world and respect for Islam was taken very well," one official, who served under the Bush administration and now Obama, told NBC News. "That got a lot of positive commentary."

He added, "There's long been a belief that the U.S. was opposed to Islam."

The official was careful to note, however, that despite the positive reaction to Obama's overture, there was also a "wait-and-see" attitude about the direction of U.S. policies in the region, specifically on the Arab-Israeli issue.

Also interesting, Al Arabiya's Arab satellite rival Al Jazeera has been low key about the interview, mostly out of competitive reasons. They've barely mentioned it, the official said.

In addition to a close review of news and blog sites, U.S. Embassies in the region have today been informally surveying the public for reaction, officials say.

A State Department official read to NBC News a few of the emails coming in from posts abroad.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo reports: "We are getting overwhelmingly positive feedback from bloggers and contacts in country. Their main points are that they were highly impressed..." that he gave his first TV interview to an Arab satellite channel.

In Saudi Arabia, a newspaper editor told the embassy, "The reader reaction that he's getting so far is astonishingly positive."

In the United Arab Emirates, the embassy said, "Anecdotal public reaction has been highly positive."

In Bahrain, one newspaper normally critical of U.S. policies commented favorably on the appointment of George Mitchell as special envoy.

Important to note: Obama's interview aired too late in the Middle East for many newspaper deadlines. So tomorrow's reaction will be closely monitored as well, especially in places like Iran and Syria, arch enemies of the U.S. under the Bush Administration.