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Updated: May 25, 2011 15:31 IST

Obama aims to reassure Europe it still matters

AP
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U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and first lady Michelle Obama arrive to meet with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, both unseen, at 10 Downing Street, Cameron's official residence, in London. Photo: AP.
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and first lady Michelle Obama arrive to meet with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, both unseen, at 10 Downing Street, Cameron's official residence, in London. Photo: AP.

Among the most pressing issues Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron will discuss is the bombing campaign against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. NATO has stepped up its military and diplomatic pressure on Col. Qadhafi’s regime this week in an effort to jolt the stalemated operation.

President Barack Obama is meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street as complex security debates over Afghanistan, Libya and other issues test the two allies.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron waved to cameras before heading inside for a private meeting that kicks off a packed day of diplomacy for the U.S. president on his second and final day in England. The leaders didn’t comment to reporters before their meeting got under way.

Later on Wednesday bpth leaders are to hold a joint news conference. Mr. Obama is to address to both houses of Parliament that the White House is billing the centerpiece of the president’s four-country, six—day Europe trip.

Wednesday’s talks follow a day of pageantry on Tuesday for the Obamas as guests of the queen.

Mr. Obama, an earlier report said was plunging back into the complex security debates over Afghanistan, Libya and uprisings in the Middle East, while trying to reassure European allies that they still are valued partners in U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. Obama’s message to allies across Europe, and Britain in particular, will be that their long—standing partnerships remain the cornerstone of America’s engagement with the world, even as the president seeks to strengthen U.S. ties with emerging powers such as China and India.

“There is no other alliance that assumes the burdens that we assume on behalf of peace and security and that, again, invests as much as we do in enforcement of international law and in global development,” said Ben Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Among the most pressing issues Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron will discuss is the bombing campaign against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. NATO has stepped up its military and diplomatic pressure on Col. Qadhafi’s regime this week in an effort to jolt the stalemated operation. The coalition launched a withering bombardment on Col. Qadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli on Tuesday, the same day the U.S. said it would allow the Libyan rebels to open an office in Washington.

Mr. Obama has said Col. Qadhafi’s exit is inevitable. But with the NATO air campaign now in its third month, lawmakers in the U.S. and in Europe are starting to ask when that exit will come.

The U.S. took the initial lead in the campaign to protect civilians from the brutal crackdown led by Col. Qadhafi’s forces, under the condition that NATO eventually would take over the operation, with the U.S. providing support. Now some British lawmakers say Britain and France have shouldered an unfair burden in the campaign and are calling on the U.S. to deploy additional planes in an attempt to increase the pace of airstrikes.

The White House, however, said it has no plans to change that arrangement.

“The things that we’re doing in support of the mission continue to be very important to its success,” Mr. Rhodes said. “We believe that that’s totally in line with the understandings that we’ve had with our allies throughout this effort.”

The White House said Mr. Obama would discuss with Mr. Cameron ways the international community can boost its support for the Libyan opposition, including funnelling them money from frozen Qadhafi assets. There is also keen interest in Britain over U.S. plans to withdraw forces from Afghanistan. Mr. Obama is expected to announce the first phase of the withdrawal within weeks, and British military officials have said they will support whatever Mr. Obama decides. Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, second only to the 100,000 U.S. forces there.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron will jointly honour the sacrifices of their militaries at a barbecue on Wednesday hosted by their wives. U.S. and British soldiers will attend, and the two countries will announce a partnership to share resources to help service members and their families.

Mr. Obama began his two—day stop in London with a grand royal welcome from Queen Elizabeth II. The president and his wife, Michelle, were greeted in an elaborate arrival ceremony at Buckingham Palace and toasted at a lavish banquet held in their honour.

The Obamas are also staying at the palace while in London as guests of the queen, who is said to have taken a liking to the American couple.

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