Accessibility links


British Prime Minister Cameron Makes First Official Visit to US

  • Jennifer Glasse

As Prime Minister David Cameron makes his first visit to Washington as the British leader, he is expected to defend embattled oil company BP. In addition to the Gulf oil spill, American lawmakers are displeased that the oil giant may have had a hand in the release of the alleged Lockerbie bomber, freed last year on compassionate grounds. Mr. Cameron and President Obama are also expected to discuss Afghanistan; Mr. Cameron says he would like British troops out by 2015.

The British prime minister has much to discuss in his first official meeting with President Obama.

Dana Allin, an expert in transatlantic relations at International Institute for Strategic Studies here in London says no matter what the two men talk about, their relationship remains intact.

"I think the relationship is essentially very strong," says Allin. "The United States and the United Kingdom are treaty allies; they're fighting a war together in Afghanistan; they have deep, deep intelligence cooperation; and they see eye-to-eye on a lot of global issues."

One awkward subject for Prime Minister Cameron will likely be British oil giant BP, and its failure to quickly stop the flow of millions of gallons of oil that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. lawmakers are also calling for an investigation into whether BP played a role in the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi. He received a hero's welcome in Libya last year. The lawmakers accuse BP of pressuring Britain to free al-Megrahi so the company could pursue an oil deal with Libya.

John Hamilton is with the trade newsletter African Energy.

"The link is evident for anybody to see, but what isn't evident - that there's really anything that BP could have done about the situation," Hamilton says. "This was an issue between the British government and the Libyan government, not an issue between BP and the British government."

Also on the agenda is Afghanistan, where Britain has 9,000 troops. Allin says the solution is complicated, but the relationship is not.

"There's no real dispute about Afghanistan; the problem in Afghanistan is no one really knows what to do," Allin adds. "Both the United States and the U.K. are seeking ways to see an end to that, to their involvement in that conflict, without abandoning the country; and they're trying to work together to do that."

Allin says Mr. Cameron is doing what he can to downplay expectations about his Washington visit.

"He's really trying to tone down the obsessive naval gazing that you see about the special relationship among large parts of the British press and the British media," she says.

Despite those efforts, the British media and other analysts will be watching as Mr. Cameron makes his first visit to Washington as British prime minister.