World waits for signs of Cameron's 'difficult choices'

12th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Global powers waited Wednesday for early signs of what kind of tough decisions, Britain's new eurosceptic and untested prime minister David Cameron will take on the world stage.

Cameron, who admitted he faces "hard and difficult work", received an immediate call from US President Barack Obama in the White House and congratulations from Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and other leaders.

The extent of the hard times ahead though were quickly underlined by EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

"I wish you and your government every success in the demanding work ahead. Like all European governments, you face difficult choices in difficult times," Barrosso said to Cameron whose right wing Conservative party has put together an unlikely coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats.

The world economy, the weight of Britain's debt, the Afghanistan war and relations with Europe and the United States will all become immediate concerns.

Obama placed a call from the Oval Office, before a pool of news photographers, in what amounted to one of Cameron's first official duties after taking over from Gordon Brown as prime minister.

Downing Street said Cameron was invited to visit Washington in July and that the pair had discussed Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process and Iran.

"As I told the prime minister, the United States has no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom, and I reiterated my deep and personal commitment to the special relationship between our two countries -- a bond that has endured for generations and across party lines," Obama said in a statement.

That was one hurdle passed -- though backers of the London-Washington axis hope Cameron will revive ties some Britons feel Obama has neglected.

Europe is also anxious as Cameron and his new Foreign Secretary William Hague have promised a tough line on allowing the European Union powers. The Liberal Democrat coalition partners are pro-European however.

Barroso stressed that many of the challenges facing Britain are shared by European partners -- economic recovery, fighting global poverty, tackling climate change and ensuring energy security.

The EU commission chief said he wanted to work closely with Cameron on "boosting the internal market and promoting smarter regulation, more transparency and greater accountability in the European Union."

With Britain playing a key role in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said he wanted a close working relationship with the new prime minister "as the alliance takes forward our operation in Afghanistan and prepares a new strategic concept."

The German chancellor invited Cameron to visit Germany and French President Sarkozy called on Cameron to work together to buttress the "exceptional ties" between Britain and France.

An Elysee statement said Sarkozy had underscored the need for both countries to work together to improve world security, overcome the global financial crisis and fight against climate change.

Russia hopes Britain's new government will provide impetus for better relations, a foreign ministry source in Moscow said.

Ties have been chilly since Russia refused to extradite the main suspect in the London murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, Russian lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi.

Japan and a host of other allies also sent congratulations.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the appointment of a fellow Tory as prime minister.

"Our two countries share a deep and enduring relationship, forged in good times and bad by hundreds of years of shared history, values and tradition," he said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Cameron to take a moment to enjoy the feeling of becoming Britain's new leader.

"I also suggested he and his wife just take a moment of quiet time to enjoy it all because in about an hour's time it all starts," he told Fairfax Network Radio.


© 2010 AFP

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