British PM denies race to meet Obama first
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has written to congratulate incoming US President Barack Obama, his spokesman said while denying European leaders were competing for a White House invitation.world Updated: Jan 21, 2009 08:13 IST
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has written to congratulate incoming US President Barack Obama, his spokesman said Tuesday while denying European leaders were competing for a White House invitation.
Queen Elizabeth II also sent a personal message of support for Obama, according to Buckingham Palace. Her words were not released, but it was understood she wished him well in his presidency.
In his letter to Obama, Brown vowed to work closely with him on key issues including the global financial crisis and the Middle East peace process, said the spokesman, some five hours before Obama was due to be sworn in.
But spokesman Michael Ellam played down suggestions that Brown was in a race with leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the first to visit Obama in Washington.
"We wouldn't attach too much importance to who has what meetings when," he said. "The important thing is whether or not you share the same values and have similar approaches and are able to work together on challenges."
He noted that the then French president, Jacques Chirac, was the first European leader to meet George W. Bush after his 2005 re-election, even though he was one of the outgoing US president's fiercest critics.
Brown is likely to be one of the first foreign leaders to host Obama when the new US president visits London in April for a summit of the Group of 20 developed and emerging economies. It will focus on the global economic slowdown.
Brown told his cabinet Tuesday that Obama shares "many of the same values" as the British government, and added that the incoming president had pushed a similar plan to combat the global economic downturn, said Ellam.
The two governments shared views on the role of the environment and would work closely on issues relating to the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, he added.
Brown also "emphasised the importance of working very closely with the incoming US administration," said Ellam.
Britain "stands ready to work very closely with his administration on many of the international challenges that we face," said the spokesman.
Although it was unclear whether Brown would be able to watch the inauguration live, he would make sure to listen to all or part of it at some point on Tueday, he added.