LONDON, July 26 – US presidential hopeful Barack Obama met British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London on Saturday, focusing on key foreign policy issues facing both countries, particularly Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Democratic White House nominee went to the British leader’s official 10 Downing Street residence after an early meeting with Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair, now the international community’s Middle East envoy.
Obama shook hands with police officers in Downing Street before halting on steps. He smiled and waved to reporters before heading inside.
Protocol dictates that Brown would not appear with Obama on the steps of 10 Downing Street, as he did not do the same for John McCain when the Republican Party candidate visited London in March.
Photographs were to be taken inside before Obama addresses the media in the street.
Before returning to the United States, Obama was later to meet the leader of Britain’s main opposition Conservatives, David Cameron, whose centre-right party is riding high in the opinion polls and on course to win the next general election.
Barack Obama shook hands with police officers in Downing Street before heading inside
The Independent newspaper said Saturday it was a bad time for him to meet "arguably the world’s most popular politician".
Obama invited Blair around for breakfast at his London hotel, and chatted with his guest about their children before sending photographers out of the room.
Obama’s campaign earlier said he wanted to talk to Blair about Middle East peace efforts after his visits to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank earlier this week.
The Democrat’s staff said he was also keen to hear Blair’s views on climate change, an issue on which he has worked since leaving office last year.
On his talks with Brown, Obama’s national security adviser, Wendy Morigi, said late Friday that the Illinois senator had enjoyed his previous discussions with the British premier, whom he met in Washington in May, as did McCain.
He "looks forward to meeting with him again to discuss shared security challenges in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He also expects to exchange views on climate change and non-proliferation," she added.
Compared to his visit to Berlin, where he addressed an estimated 200,000-strong crowd to rapturous cheers and applause Thursday, the London leg of Obama’s world tour is more low-key, with protocol dictating he is afforded the same welcome as McCain received.
The senator’s popularity is high here, as in the rest of Europe. A recent newspaper poll suggested Britons favour him to McCain for the presidency by five to one.
Like Obama, Brown has also recently visited Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories and will doubtless be encouraged by his call for a more multi-lateral approach to US foreign policy, as he has pushed a similar line.
Before flying to Britain on Friday, Obama met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, signalling his appreciation for a warming of French-US relations that were hit by former president Jacques Chirac’s opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Obama’s Berlin speech called for the rift in US-European relations to be repaired. That will chime well with Brown, who has stuck to Blair’s position of Britain being a "bridge" between Europe and the United States.
Obama, 46, is still favourite to beat 71-year-old McCain in the election. According to pollsters, he is between one and six points ahead.