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Obama Faces Tough Issues on First Overseas Trip as US President


White House officials say U.S. President Barack Obama is going to Europe this week to consult and to listen. Although he is popular with the European public, Mr. Obama likely will face some tough talk from their leaders.

As Barack Obama prepares for his first overseas trip as president, differences between the United States and Europe on major issues are coming to the fore.

The global economy and Afghanistan are likely to dominate most of his discussions abroad. And while there is an international consensus that both issues need to be addressed, there is a wide range of views on how best to proceed.

In London, Mr. Obama will represent the United States for the first time on the world stage when he sits down with the heads of 20 of the biggest leading and emerging economies - the G-20.

Some countries have blamed the deregulation of financial markets in the United States for sparking the global economic crisis. And many with strapped budgets have little interest in the massive government spending Mr. Obama supports as economic stimulus.

Top White House officials insist that the president has no desire to dictate spending targets to other nations.

"There isn't any single number that is sacrosanct," said Michael Froman.

Michael Froman is the president's Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.

"I think the important thing is that there is broad agreement that was reflected in the finance ministers' statement of a couple of weeks ago to do whatever is necessary to restore growth," he said.

While in London, President Obama will meet for the first time on a one-on-one basis with the leaders of China, Russia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and India.

The day after their summit ends, Mr. Obama will join other NATO members near the French-German border to mark the 60th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

He will go before the NATO summit with a new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS television's Face the Nation program, the president said the stakes are high.

"We have seen deterioration over the last several years and unless we get a handle on it now, we are going to be in trouble," said President Obama.

But while President Obama is very popular in Europe, the prospect of sending more NATO troops to Afghanistan is not.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he has not given up on deploying more allied combat forces, saying that some NATO members may be willing to send troops to help in the run-up to national elections in August.

But during an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Gates stressed that more civilian help is also needed.

"I think what we are really interested in for the longer term from our partners and our allies is helping us with this civilian surge in terms of experts in agriculture and finance and government and so on to help us improve the situation inside Afghanistan," said Robert Gates.

After the NATO summit, President Obama will travel to the Czech Republic, where he will deliver a speech on weapons proliferation and hold talks on U.S. ties with the European Union.

His last stop will be Turkey - the first Muslim country to welcome the new U.S. president.

There was speculation he might deliver a speech on U.S. relations with the Muslim world while in Istanbul. Instead, President Obama will launch a dialogue with young people in the region. Aides say he will take part in a question and answer session conducted, in part, on the Internet.

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