News / Europe

Obama in London: 'The Time for Our Leadership Is Now'

U.S. President, Barack Obama addresses the members of both houses of the the British Parliament in Westminster Hall in London, May 25, 2011
U.S. President, Barack Obama addresses the members of both houses of the the British Parliament in Westminster Hall in London, May 25, 2011

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Kent Klein

Addressing Britain's Parliament on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message that the United States and Great Britain will continue to lead efforts toward world peace and democracy. The president also visited British Prime Minister David Cameron.

President Obama had the honor of speaking before the British Parliament at 900-year-old Westminster Hall. He used the opportunity to emphasize the strength of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain.

"I have come here today to reaffirm one of the oldest, one of the strongest alliances the world has ever known," said the U.S. president.

Obama disputed the contention that the influence of America and Britain in the world is waning.

"That argument is wrong," he said. "The time for our leadership is now. It was the U.S. and the U.K. and our democratic allies which shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and individuals could thrive."

The president spent the earlier part of the day at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Much of their talk concentrated on the upheaval in the Middle East, and specifically the NATO military mission to protect civilians in Libya.

Cameron agreed with the president that regime change is not part of the United Nations-authorized mission in Libya, but protecting civilians is impossible as long as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi remains in power.

"It is impossible to imagine a future with Gadhafi still in power.  He must go,'' said Cameron.

Obama said NATO-led forces in Libya are making progress, and Gadhafi is under more pressure to leave.

"Given the progress that has been made over the last several weeks, Gadhafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a letup in the pressure that we are applying," said Obama.

Cameron also expressed support for the president's controversial stand on the Middle East peace process, agreeing that borders for Israel and a Palestinian state should be based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, with mutually agreed land swaps.

He and the president disagreed over the Palestinians' expected appeal to the United Nations for statehood. Obama called it a mistake, saying Palestinian sovereignty can only be gained by negotiating with Israel. Cameron said he would prefer to discuss the issue with the European Union before making a decision.

After spending the morning discussing difficult global issues, the two leaders held an American-style barbecue at 10 Downing Street. The prime minister served hamburgers to U.S. and British service members and veterans.

Both leaders will return to tackling serious global issues Thursday when they go to the two-day Group of Eight summit in France.

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