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 received immediate calls of congratulation from US President Barack Obama in the White House and the leaders of China, India, Germany and France.

The extent of the "demanding work ahead" however was quickly underlined by European Union Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

"Like all European governments, you face difficult choices in difficult times," Barrosso said in a statement 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.

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 more 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.

He 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."

Sweden's conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said Cameron had inherited "Europe's most difficult task: that of putting British public finances in order."

"The Labour Party has left behind a budget that is deficit-plagued to levels equivalent to what we've seen in Greece," Reinfeldt said.

But he added that Cameron has "made historic changes (within his party) in a very short time. We've been in touch over the past year and I'm looking forward to working with him."

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.

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. Sarkozy lined up talks in London on June 18.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also invited Cameron to Delhi. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had a 15-minute conversation with Cameron for an early exchange of views on world affairs, Downing Street said.

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.

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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