Aides stress growing co-operation with Europe


WHAT'S NEXT:US PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s visit to Ireland was the first leg of a European trip that will take in Britain, Poland and a G8 meeting.

White House officials have cast the week-long visit as an effort to “reaffirm [the US’s] core alliances in the world, our European allies”.

It is the first multi-stop trip Mr Obama has made to Europe since early in the first year of his presidency. It comes amid anxiety in Brussels and other European capitals that the US president has not placed as much emphasis on the relationship with Europe as some of his predecessors.

Aides say the Obama administration is keen to stress its growing co-operation with Europe as a “catalyst for global action” rooted in “shared values and interests”.

In London, the Obamas will be hosted by Queen Elizabeth for a state visit, which will include a wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The president will hold a bilateral meeting with prime minister David Cameron to discuss issues including the global economy, the war in Afghanistan, co-operation on counter-terrorism and Iran. The Nato-led air campaign in Libya is expected to loom large; Britain and France have pushed for a greater US role in the operation, as frustrations build over the failure to dislodge Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, senior director for European affairs at the US National Security Council, predicted that Mr Obama and Mr Cameron would use the meeting “to show Gadafy that time is not on his side”.

On Wednesday, Mr Obama will deliver an address to Britain’s houses of parliament, which, officials say, will expand on the ideas he put forth in a speech last week on the Arab spring and the future of the Middle East.

The wave of uprisings and protests sweeping the Arab world are likely to feature heavily at the G8 meeting in the French coastal city of Deauville. Leaders attending the gathering, aides said, will discuss how best to assist Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states experiencing political transition.

The prime ministers of Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the head of the World Bank, the United Nations secretary general and representatives of the International Monetary Fund are due to attend the talks. High on the G8 agenda will be the global economic crisis and the pace of recovery.

According to a White House briefing on the trip, the G8 meetings will also include talks on nonproliferation, North Korea, Iran, terrorism, drug trafficking and piracy. The situation in Japan following the tsunami earlier this year is also due for discussion.

Mr Obama is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the G8 gathering. On Friday, he will meet French president Nicolas Sarkozy and will have a separate meeting with Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan.

Then he leaves for Poland, where the heads of state of central and eastern Europe will be attending a summit. Polish officials are expected to urge Mr Obama to allow Poland to join the US visa waiver programme, which Ireland has long enjoyed.