Obama pledges fresh view on U.S. role in world

CHICAGO Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:39pm EST

1 of 6. President-elect Barack Obama asks patrons what he should order for lunch at Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli in Chicago, November 21, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Frank Polich

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - With his choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state all but certain, President-elect Barack Obama promised on Friday to bring a "fresh perspective" to U.S. relations with the rest of the world.

Obama, who takes over from George W. Bush on January 20, has criticized the Republican's administration sharply for lowering America's stature in the international community.

In a videotaped address to the European Olympic Committee General Assembly meeting in Istanbul, released at the end of a week spent working on his future cabinet, Obama said his White House would take a different approach.

"In the coming years, my administration will bring a fresh perspective on America's role and responsibilities around the world," he said, adding nations must work together to meet shared global challenges.

Obama made a pitch for a his home city of Chicago to host the 2016 Olympic games and tied that to his goal of lifting foreign opinion of the United States.

"The United States would be honored to have the opportunity to host the Games and serve the Olympic Movement," he said. "As President-elect, I see the Olympic and Paralympic Games as an opportunity for our nation to reach out, welcome the world to our shores, and strengthen our friendships across the globe."

The key players who will be working on those friendships include the secretary of state and national security adviser, two appointments that Obama is said to be close to making.

A Democratic official said on Thursday night that Clinton, the New York senator and Obama's former rival for the presidency, was on track to become the nation's top diplomat, with an announcement expected after the November 27 Thanksgiving holiday.

NATIONAL SECURITY FRONTRUNNER

Retired Marine Gen. James Jones emerged as a leading contender for White House national security adviser, according to Democratic sources. Jones is a former top operational commander of NATO.

His military background would equip him well in a role that requires mediating among the various foreign policy players in the Cabinet, some Democrats said.

They also said his former NATO role could bolster Obama's plans to push for more international help in Afghanistan.

Obama is also leaning toward keeping Robert Gates as secretary of Defense.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana gave his backing to Clinton at the State Department, telling reporters in Washington she would be well received in Europe.

"I think it would be very well taken if that is the case," Solana said when asked how he thought European diplomats would react if Obama chose the former first lady.

"She is capable, with experience. She is well known," he added. "Nothing seems to be negative."

Obama's early moves got the thumbs up from the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who said he believed the Obama team was preparing to "govern in the middle and tackle big things."

"I think the new administration is off to a good start," he told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Markets remain eager to hear the president-elect's choice of Treasury secretary, which observers expected to be one of the early cabinet announcements. No word on that pick was expected on Friday.

The Treasury chief will oversee the Obama administration's efforts to stem the financial crisis and prevent a drawn-out recession.

Part of that will include addressing problems in the struggling auto sector, but two officials from Obama's transition team said he was not exploring a prepackaged bankruptcy plan for U.S. carmakers, as reported by Bloomberg News.

"That's not true," said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's White House transition team.

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday asked General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC to provide a business survival plan in exchange for their support of up to $25 billion in loans.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming, Editing by Jackie Frank)

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