Obama asks bipartisan duo to meet officials at G20

CHICAGO (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday named a bipartisan duo of Washington veterans to meet foreign delegations at this weekend’s global financial summit, opening communication between the next U.S. administration and its global counterparts.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a Democrat, and former Republican Rep. Jim Leach will be available for unofficial meetings on Obama’s behalf at the Washington summit, which Obama himself will not attend, a statement from his office said.

“This weekend’s summit is an important opportunity to hear from the leaders of many of the world’s largest economies,” said Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser, Denis McDonough. “President (George W.) Bush should be commended for calling the summit.”

Officials from the G-20 group of leading economies will meet in Washington to discuss overhauling the international financial system in response to a credit crisis that threatens global recession.

Obama, who takes office on January 20 and is now mulling his Cabinet choices, has said that since he is not yet U.S. president he would not take part in the summit or meet foreign leaders on the sidelines of the meeting.

The statement from Obama’s office said Albright and Leach would seek input from visiting delegations on behalf of Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

“There is one president at a time in the United States, so the president-elect has asked Secretary Albright and Congressman Leach, an experienced and bipartisan team, to be available (to) meet with and listen to our friends and allies on his behalf,” McDonough said.

Albright served as secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton in the country’s last Democratic administration.

Leach, a moderate Republican, was a congressman from Iowa for 30 years, where he served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He also chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee and was one of the few who predicted the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s, according to the Almanac of American Politics.

The G-20 is comprised of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

It was not clear which leaders or delegations Albright and Leach might meet or what topics they would attempt to discuss.

The transition office said further details about specific meetings that Albright and Leach will be having over the weekend will be released later.

Obama and Biden will receive a briefing from Albright and Leach after the meetings, the office said in the statement.

Additional reporting by Michael Conlon; Editing by Cynthia Osterman