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Obama Receives Mostly Rave Reviews After First European Trip


President Barack Obama has just completed his first visit to Europe since taking office - a whirlwind tour from the G20 Summit in London, the NATO Summit in Strasbourg, meeting EU leaders in Prague and on to Turkey for his first official visit to a predominantly Muslim country. And, it seems the U.S. leader has taken Europe by storm with mostly rave reviews.

Europe can't get enough

Europe, it seems, could not get enough. From the moment the Obamas stepped off the plane in London to the departure from Istanbul - every move became public record.

And whenever there was an opportunity, it seemed top world leaders wanted to be seen with him.

"Pure star power", is how London image consultant Tazeen Ahmad describes the new American leader.

"He's got everything," she noted. "He's got the athletic build, he's tall, he's charismatic. His oratory - he's probably one of the best political speakers we've had in a long time, if not the best. All of this, including the timing - the world was ready for him."

Obama's message well-received

But it was not all style. There were thorny issues on the table. In London, it was a plan to stem the world recession. In Strasbourg, at NATO's 60th anniversary summit, the ongoing war in Afghanistan topped the agenda.

And all throughout the Obama message was that he had come to Europe, not just to lead, but to listen.

"America can't meet our global challenges alone, nor can Europe meet them without America," president Obama said.

Political analyst, Michael Cox of the IDEAS Diplomacy and Strategy Center at the London School of Economics says Mr. Obama's style and message hit home.

"It was very 'smart power,' because while he was listening, he was also trying to formulate some clear positions on the world economy, on NATO's future, particularly in relationship to Afghanistan and on America's rather strong position on Turkey's membership to the EU and broader relationship between the West and the Muslim world," said Cox.

And the message was well received. There was a particularly warm welcome from NATO summit host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I want to tell Barack Obama how delighted I will be to work hand in hand with him," Sarkozy said. "I want to tell him how much I appreciate his open-mindedness, his determination to build a new world."

Repairing partnership with Muslim world

Listening, leading, cooperating - it was a message Barack Obama also took to Turkey on his first official visit to a predominantly Muslim country. In Ankara, he paid tribute to Turkey's history and culture, its role in the world, he voiced strong support for its membership bid to the European Union - and he reached out to Islam.

"Let me say this as clearly as I can: the United States is not at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject," the president said.

A critical message, says Michael Cox, but given America's policies in the Middle East, particularly under the Bush administration, he says action must follow words.

"There is a past here. A lot of damage has been done to that relationship," Cox noted. "It's going to take more than just words to overcome that lingering suspicion."

Town hall meeting showcases Obama's communication style

It was not all speeches and state meetings. There was also what some might say was vintage Obama from the days of his presidential campaign - a way to connect with average people in town-hall style meetings.

"Hello, thank you, bonne après-midi, guten Tag," Mr. Obama said.

The approach translates well here in Europe, says Michael Cox.

"What they [the audience] see is somebody who's thinking on his feet and someone who can deal with sometimes rather difficult questions and answer them in a straightforward and intelligent fashion. I think that does play very well," Cox said.

Mixed reviews in Turkey

As for reactions on the streets of Istanbul - some liked what they heard.

"If he can realize what he says until now, it will be good for Turkey - for all over the world because he's talking about peace," one young person said.

But, not everyone was convinced.

"People right here, as you can see are very sensitive about what's going on in the Middle East and in the world," another young person noted. "So, I think the reason for him [to come here] is to come up with a list of demands that they're going to ask Turkey to help them with for their new agenda."

Lingering suspicions do remain, despite overall rave reviews for the new American president on his first official visit to Europe. But, the general view is that the hard part - translating words into action - still lies ahead.

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