Saturday, June 27, 2009

Obama, Merkel show united front at U.S. meeting

Obama, Merkel show united front at U.S. meetingBy Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel displayed a united front on Friday over Iran, climate and regulation, smoothing over -- at least in public -- differences that dogged their relationship.
Obama, who called Merkel a friend he could trust, said the two spoke with one voice in condemning the crackdown on demonstrators in Iran after its disputed election.
Merkel, who has criticized Obama`s economic stimulus plan, praised U.S. efforts to fight global warming and said a bill in the U.S. Congress would advance international talks on climate change later this year.
"The chancellor and I discussed the tragic situation in Iran," Obama said at the opening of a joint news conference.
"Today we speak with one voice. The rights of the Iranian people to assemble, to speak freely, to have their voices heard -- those are universal aspirations."
The two leaders also discussed accelerating the Middle East peace process, fighting extremism in Afghanistan, and creating a "more substantive" relationship with Russia, Obama said.
Merkel and Obama, who will attend the Group of Eight summit of wealthy nations in Italy next month, have clashed over the best way to lift the globe out of recession.
Democrat Obama presided over a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package shortly after taking office in January, while Merkel, a conservative, has spoken against massive spending to fix the world`s economic ills.
"I underscored our commitment to strengthening financial regulations, and I welcome Chancellor Merkel`s commitment to reform," Obama said in a nod to their respective priorities.
On climate change, Merkel was expected to press Obama to back a European Union goal of limiting increases in global average temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.
But the chancellor, whose visit coincided with a vote in the House of Representatives on a bill capping carbon emissions, went out of her way to praise the U.S. legislation, which Obama supports, and its potential to boost U.N. negotiations in Denmark in December.
"It should not be underestimated what sort of opportunity this brings to us to come to a good, a sustainable result during the Copenhagen conference," she said.
Other areas of disagreement came up. Merkel`s government has resisted U.S. requests that it accept inmates from the Guantanamo prison that Obama plans to close by early 2010.
Obama said the two sides were discussing the issue.  Continued...
Original article

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