U.S. President Barack Obama is in Ireland Monday to start a six-day, four-nation trip that will include high-level diplomacy about the revolts in the Middle East, discussions on global economic difficulties at a summit of the Group of 8 leading industrialized nations in France, and a celebration of his distant Irish roots.
The bloody unrest in Libya - and the U.S. role in the NATO bombardment of troops loyal to its leader, Moammar Gadhafi - is likely to be at the forefront of Obama's foreign policy talks with European leaders. But the president and his European counterparts are also expected to discuss the daunting challenges they face in trying to recover from the worldwide recession.
Over the course of the next several days, the American leader plans to meet individually with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and collectively with other world leaders.
He meets with Irish President Mary McAleese and Prime Minister Enda Kenny in Dublin Monday morning. Tuesday Obama travels to Britain for a two-day state visit, with the U.S. president and first lady Michelle Obama staying at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth. Then he heads to France for the Group of 8 summit, with a final stop in Poland and a meeting with Central European leaders.
But before the high-level talks begin, Obama plans to visit the Irish hamlet of Moneygall, a village of 296 people where his great-great-great grandfather on his mother's side Falmouth Kearney was born in 1830 and lived before immigrating to the U.S. 20 years later.
The White House hopes the trip will showcase the U.S. commitment to its European allies after a period in which Obama has been focused on the Middle East.
But thorny issues remain for the U.S. in relations with both its Western allies and Russia. As the U.S. fights a war in Afghanistan and winds down its long involvement in Iraq, it has attempted to limit its involvement in the Libyan conflict. But Britain and France have pressed for more American involvement as the conflict has continued for more than two months and Gadhafi and the rebels fighting him appear to be at a stalemate.
Obama's meeting with Medvedev could be contentious. Russia has opposed U.S. plans to build an anti-missile shield in Europe. The U.S. says the shield is necessary to guard against possible threats from Iran and other countries with nuclear programs. But Russia says it fears the U.S. will expand the shield and pose a threat to Russia's nuclear arsenal.