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Obama, British PM meet ahead of G20 summit

Published on 02/04/2009

London — US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown held talks at Downing Street Wednesday on the eve of a crunch G20 summit in London to revamp the global economy.

Obama and Brown met as tensions between the US and Europe over the Obama administration’s proposals for a coordinated global stimulus package threaten to cause deep splits at Thursday’s one-day summit.

Brown, who is hosting the talks, faces a struggle to unite the US and Europe after France said President Nicolas Sarkozy could walk out of the G20 if it does not agree the tighter financial sector regulation which both Paris and Berlin want.

Sarkozy also said he and the Germans are not happy with the contents of a draft statement being drafted ahead of the summit.

Obama and his wife Michelle, who arrived in Britain late Tuesday, exchanged handshakes and kisses with Brown and wife Sarah before posing for photographers on the steps of the British leader’s Downing Street office in London.

Downing Street staff were heard applauding as Obama and the First Lady went inside. The leaders and their wives were expected to have breakfast together before the two men hold talks and a press conference after 10:00 am (0900 GMT).

The women are expected to leave after breakfast and visit a cancer care centre in London. Brown and Obama previously met when Brown visited the US in March.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also arrived at Downing Street with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband shortly afterwards.

The US wants to secure a coordinated international stimulus package at the G20 summit in London Thursday but is facing a split with European countries like France and Germany, which insist better regulation is the way forward.

Obama has dismissed talk of a split as a "phony debate", saying both stimulus and regulation are needed.

The US president is also holding eagerly-awaited bilateral meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, both of whom he is meeting for the first time.

Later Obama and the First Lady were to meet Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip for the first time at Buckingham Palace.

They were then to attend a reception at the palace with the royal couple and other world leaders before a dinner for G20 leaders and their spouses at Downing Street Wednesday night.

Michelle Obama was expected to sit next to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling at the dinner, which will be attended by a string of celebrities and cooked by television chef Jamie Oliver.

London is facing a day of protests across the city by demonstrators calling for major changes to global capitalism ahead of the G20 summit.

All police leave has been cancelled and some 10,500 officers are being used in the G20 security operation, London’s Metropolitan Police said.