Obama set to stride onto world stage

30th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

After two months bailing out the US economy, Obama will make his first major foreign trip as president, grasp a leadership role in efforts to end the global crisis and lobby American allies on his new Afghan war strategy.

Washington -- Barack Obama will transfer the sweeping ambition driving his young presidency to the world stage this week, in a flurry of critical summits with world leaders in Europe, and an onward trip to Turkey.

After two months bailing out the US economy, Obama will make his first major foreign trip as president, grasp a leadership role in efforts to end the global crisis and lobby US allies on his new Afghan war strategy.

He will stop in London for the Group of 20 summit, head to France and Germany for the 60th anniversary NATO summit, attend EU-US meetings in Prague and then accelerate his initiative to engage the Muslim world in Turkey.

"I think it's fair to say that President Obama's first trip to Europe is maybe the most anticipated visit by an American President to Europe, probably in my lifetime," said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

"Maybe the Kennedy visit to Berlin exceeded it, but it is at that level."

This will be Obama's first chance to make good on his vow to repair the US image abroad and meet key world leaders who will help shape his presidency.

"For the first time, he'll be sitting around several summit tables with world leaders," said Reginald Dale, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"He'll be there as the first among equals, which is the first time he's been in this particular environment rather than being on a pinnacle by himself, as he is in the United States.

"This is a real test of his leadership."

Obama's first stop after leaving Washington on Tuesday will be London, for the G20 summit and a string of talks including his crucial first encounters with the Presidents of Russia and China.

He will move onto Strasbourg and Kehl on Friday April, 3, for the NATO summit, where he will press US allies to support his reinvigorated strategy for the war in Afghanistan and the battle against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

The president will also meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and hold a question-and-answer session with students on the future of the transatlantic alliance.

On Sunday, April, 5, in Prague, Obama will join a European Union/US summit and give a major address on proliferation, while also meeting top Czech leaders, aides said.

He will then travel to both Ankara and Istanbul to stress the vital and strategic role he sees played by Turkey in issues including Middle East peace efforts.

Obama has unfurled national security initiatives at a frenetic pace, mandating the closure of the Guantanamo Bay war on terror camp, started to engage arch-US foe Iran, vowed to tackle climate change and ordered the withdrawal of most combat troops in Iraq.

The president also shifted strategy on Afghanistan and warmed ties with Russia that plunged into a deep chill under his predecessor George W. Bush.

"The president feels that we have had a very aggressive and forward-leading pace in the first 60 plus days," said Denis McDonough, a US deputy national security advisor.

"He looks very much forward to continuing that pace on this trip, reenergising out alliances to confront the shared threats that we have."

Obama has promised to push a "reset" button on ties with Moscow, and his first encounter with President Dmitry Medvedev will be closely watched.

Washington wants more robust Russian support on halting Iran's nuclear drive and has signalled a slowing of a proposed missile defence system in Europe and NATO expansion which are critical issues for Moscow.

The leaders are also expected to make a joint declaration on their weapons arsenals.

Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao will discuss the global crisis, given that their two nations are locked in a tight economic embrace.

North Korea's apparently impending test of ballistic missile technology and a recent clash in the South China Sea between a US navy ship and Chinese vessels are also key issues.

Obama will also hold talks with South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Saudi King Abdullah and meet Queen Elizabeth II while in London.

His visit to Turkey will feature his promised address at a major Islamic forum in his first 100 days in office, aides said, but will include a multimedia attempt to engage young people in Turkey and southwest Asia.

Stephen Collinson/AFP/Expatica

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