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Britain’s Brown to take stage in US Congress

Published on 04/03/2009

WASHINGTON – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a joint session of the US Congress Wednesday, after pushing his campaign to overhaul the global financial system in White House talks.

Brown became the first European leader to meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, where the new US leader assured him that ties between Washington and London were unbreakable.

He will be the fifth British prime minister to make the ceremonial address to US lawmakers, and was expected to warn developed nations against protectionism as they battle global economic turmoil.

"I am going to say to Congress: ‘Seize the moment’. This is a moment when the whole of the world wants to work with America," Brown said in a round of interviews with British media.

"This is a moment where we can’t solve the problems of the banking system without us all working together and when co-operation can bring us huge benefits.

"I think you will find that members of Congress – not just President Obama – want a way out of this problem and the method of co-operation will actually commend themselves to them."

Brown said at the White House on Tuesday that global powers could reach a "new deal" on overhauling the world’s crippled financial system within months.

Obama agreed on global collaboration to handle future financial crises, but did not give a specific, public endorsement of Brown’s calls for a sweeping new global regulatory framework.

Brown laid the groundwork for G-20 talks on the global economic downturn which he will host in London in April.

In the next few months a global "new deal" could be reached in which every country could be "sorting out and cleaning up the banking system," Brown told reporters in the Oval Office.

"There is the possibility of the international institutions for the first time being reformed in such a way that they can do the job that people want them to do, and deal with some of the problems that exist in the poorest countries of the world," he said.

Obama said he and Brown had talked about coordinating how G-20 nations could stimulate their economies and adopt a "common set of principles" in banking to stop crisis ripple effects impact "onto our shores."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama believed it was important at the G-20 summit to establish "rules of the road" to head off future financial crisis.

Obama sought to downplay reports he was interested in loosening historic ties with Britain, partly fanned in the British press by reports that he had removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

"Great Britain is one of our closest, strongest allies and there is a link, a bond there that will not break," he said.

Brown elaborated on his "new deal" concept in an interview with ABC.

"What it means is that every country should be contributing to bringing an end to this downturn," he said.

Brown however said he is not calling for global financial regulation of banks.

"What we’re talking about is if you’ve got a bank that has branches or operations in 30 or 40 different countries, you’ve got to have an idea what’s been done across the world," he said.

"You’d maybe have a college of supervisors to look at big international institutions.

"You’d also have perhaps the supervisors working more closely with each other so that they can identify some of the problems before they actually hit us."

Obama’s vanquished 2008 election rival John McCain also had kind words for Brown, who heads a Labour Party government that is trailing the opposition Conservatives in opinion polls.

But Jon Kyl, like McCain a Republican senator from Arizona, accused Britain of failing to do enough to forestall Iran’s alleged drive for nuclear weapons.

"Great Britain could be more helpful than it has been in support of US policies that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," Kyl told AFP.

AFP / Expatica