Obama and Cameron to stress united effort on Libya
LONDON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday will stress a united effort to pressure Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down, while glossing over differences between their two governments.
Obama and Cameron are to hold joint talks and a midday news conference before Obama delivers a speech at Westminster Hall laying out the main theme of his trip -- that the United States and Europe must play a lead role together in global security.
Libya presents a thorny challenge. After initially leading the air campaign, the United States has assumed a lower profile in the two-month campaign, with Obama trying to avoid another expensive foreign entanglement.
Britain, France and other NATO members have taken the lead but face just as many financial hardships at home as the United States, and there are some suggestions that the allies would like Washington to do more.
That does not appear to be on the horizon, however.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser, told reporters the United States would not mind if Britain were to send its attack helicopters in support of the Libyan rebels, as London is contemplating.
"There's a lot of ways that the U.S. is contributing diplomatically through support to the opposition and through support to the military effort. And we're satisfied that we'll continue to do so and that that is playing an incredibly important role in the operation," Rhodes said.
Obama is on a week-long, four-nation Europe tour and Wednesday promises to offer the most substance after a light-hearted visit to Ireland and a day in London filled with pomp at Buckingham Palace.
Obama is feeling the tug of home. A massive tornado killed at least 118 people in Missouri. He plans to visit there on Sunday upon his return.
He and Cameron sit down for talks at No. 10 Downing Street that, besides Libya, will cover the allies' effort to wind down the war in Afghanistan and nurture the fledgling attempts at democratic change in North Africa and the Middle East.
Obama's speech at Westminster Hall will give him a chance to outline how Washington views Europe in a crowded diplomatic agenda dominated by challenges from Asia to the Middle East.
"We're confident that Europe can continue to play the role it's played as our principal and fundamental security partner in the world, even as, of course, we have a number of very critical security relationships ranging from obviously our Asian allies to Australia to other countries," said Rhodes.
Wednesday follows a more ceremonial day for the Obamas, who spent Tuesday getting acquainted with Buckingham Palace and enjoying a state dinner put on by Queen Elizabeth II.
At the meal, attended by some 170 guests, Obama and the queen discussed the cultural, military and diplomatic ties that connected the two countries.
Obama goes to Deauville, France, on Thursday for a Group of Eight summit and separate meetings with the leaders of Russia, France and Japan. He ends the trip with a visit to Poland.