Friday, June 26, 2009

Obama, Germany`s Merkel to air differences at meeting

Obama, Germany`s Merkel to air differences at meetingBy Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will debate how to fix the global economy and fight climate change on Friday in a White House meeting that is likely to highlight a range of differences between the two leaders.
Unrest in Iran after the Islamic Republic`s disputed presidential poll, the war in Afghanistan and a U.S. request that Germany take prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are also issues likely to be on the agenda.
Merkel and Obama, who will both attend the Group of Eight summit of wealthy nations in Italy next month, have clashed about the best way to lift the globe out of recession, but analysts say relations between the two leaders are solid.
"They`re going to continue conversations as we head into the G8 about the importance of continuing to make progress and getting our world economy back on track," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, noting Obama and Merkel had recently met in Germany.
"Obviously, North Korea and Iran will be discussed, as they were in Germany. And I think -- I assume issues such as Guantanamo Bay and others will be on the docket," he said.
Obama presided over a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package shortly after taking office earlier this year, while Merkel has spoken against massive spending to fix the world`s economic ills.
A senior German official said the chancellor wanted to discuss an "exit strategy" for short-term economic fixes such as stimulus spending.
"It`s an issue for the future but one we feel needs to be discussed now," the official said.
Obama and Merkel disagree on international security topics as well. Berlin has shunned U.S. calls that it commit more troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is deeply unpopular in Germany.
Merkel`s government has also resisted U.S. requests that it accept inmates from the Guantanamo prison that Obama plans to close by early 2010.
DISAGREEMENTS, ELECTION
Merkel, who is running in Germany`s September federal election for a second term, enjoyed a warm relationship with former U.S. President George W. Bush, urging him, with some success, to inch toward international consensus on the need to fight climate change.
"Merkel was dealing with a weakened Bush and the Germans felt they could influence him," said John Kornblum, the U.S. ambassador to Germany under President Bill Clinton, who lives in Berlin. "They do not have the same feeling with Obama."
But another analyst said Obama and Merkel admire each other and have a respectful relationship, which the German chancellor is eager to illustrate -- even while disagreeing with U.S. policies -- during her first visit to the Obama White House.
"Obama is the most popular politician in Germany," said Jeremy Shapiro, a foreign policy fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.  Continued...
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