Obama to Focus on Economy, Security on First Foreign Trip

President's agenda for trip is jam-packed

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama embarks on his first overseas trip as president, he is vowing to listen to his foreign counterparts and lead by example when world powers meet in Europe this coming week to address the economic crisis and work to stem future financial catastrophes.

Obama's jam-packed agenda includes a speech in France on the U.S. trans-Atlantic relationship. He'll deliver another one in the Czech Republic on proliferation. Then he's off to hold a roundtable in Turkey with students. He also has plans to meet with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, as well as a slew of other heads of state as part of a rigorous schedule.

"It's an opportunity ... to not just confront the inherited challenges the administration took on but also to re-energize our alliances to confront the looming threats of the 21st Century," said Denis McDonough, the administration's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

While economics certainly will dominate discussions, advisers said nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, climate change, energy security, terrorism, and Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan also will be discussed at G-20, European Union and NATO gatherings.

Thus far, Obama's only foreign trip as president was a daylong visit to Canada.

Nearly a week long, the president leaves Washington on Tuesday for London to take part in the economic summit of 20 major and developing nations that together represent more than 85 percent of the global economy. Advisers said the goal was to manage the current crisis by restoring growth and to prevent a future downturn by reforming financial regulations.

"The president and America are going to listen in London as well as to lead," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Discussions are expected to be intense as there are wide differences between the U.S. and Europe over how to stabilize and grow economies.

While in London, Obama plans meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Queen Elizabeth II, and Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Obama is also scheduled to meet with Saudi Arabia's Abdullah, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Later in the week, Obama is slated to travel to Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, where he will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and participate in a NATO working group. He also will deliver an address on the United States' trans-Atlantic alliance and take questions from students.

More NATO meetings are on tap for the weekend before Obama flies to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, for a European Union summit. He is slated to hold talks with Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and prime minister Mirek Topolanek, who resigned Thursday after his three-party coalition government lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

Also in Prague, Obama plans to deliver a speech on nuclear proliferation.

He then will travel to Ankara, Turkey, where advisers said Obama will make clear that Turkey is a "vital" member of NATO and a close ally of the United States.

While there, he plans meetings with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before holding a round-table in Istanbul on Tuesday with students in what advisers called an attempt to reach out to young people in Europe and Southwest Asia.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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