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April 16, 2009

President Obama Visits Trinidad and Tobago


In advance of his trip to Trinidad and Tobago, President Obama wrote an op-ed that ran today in 15 Caribbean, Latin American and United States newspapers, promising the other nations of the western hemisphere “a new day” in their relationship to its most powerful member the US of A.

“Choosing a Better Future in the Americas” appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, both of which serve substantial Cuban American readerships, in El Nuevo Herald – an American Spanish language newspaper, and in newspapers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and the Trinidad Express of Trinidad and Tobago, where Obama will attend the Summit of the Americas Friday April 17 through Sunday, April 19.

Michelle Obama will not be accompanying the President.  She’s staying home with Malia and Sasha who are home on Spring break.

Below is the op-ed in its entirety:

Choosing a Better Future in the Americas
by President Barack Obama

As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice. We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future.

Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.

In advance of the Summit, we have begun to move in a new direction. This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. In particular, the refusal to allow Cuban Americans to visit or provide resources to their families on the island made no sense – particularly after years of economic hardship in Cuba, and the devastating hurricanes that took place last year. Now, that policy has changed.

The U.S.-Cuba relationship is one example of a debate in the Americas that is too often dragged back to the 20th century. To confront our economic crisis, we don’t need a debate about whether to have a rigid, state-run economy or unbridled and unregulated capitalism – we need pragmatic and responsible action that advances our common prosperity. To combat lawlessness and violence, we don’t need a debate about whether to blame right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents – we need practical cooperation to expand our common security.

We must choose the future over the past, because we know that the future holds enormous opportunities if we work together. That is why leaders from Santiago to Brasilia to Mexico City are focused on a renewed partnership of the Americas that makes progress on fundamental issues like economic recovery, energy, and security.

There is no time to lose. The global economic crisis has hit the Americas hard, particularly our most vulnerable populations. Years of progress in combating poverty and inequality hangs in the balance. The United States is working to advance prosperity in the hemisphere by jumpstarting our own recovery. In doing so, we will help spur trade, investment, remittances, and tourism that provides a broader base for prosperity in the hemisphere.

We also need collective action. At the recent G-20 Summit, the United States pledged to seek nearly half a billion dollars in immediate assistance for vulnerable populations, while working with our G-20 partners to set aside substantial resources to help countries through difficult times. We have called upon the Inter-American Development Bank to maximize lending to restart the flow of credit, and stand ready to examine the needs and capacity of the IDB going forward. And we are working to put in place tough, clear 21st century rules of the road to prevent the abuses that caused the current crisis.

While we confront this crisis, we must build a new foundation for long-term prosperity. One area that holds out enormous promise is energy. Our hemisphere has bountiful natural resources that could make renewable energy plentiful and sustainable, while creating jobs for our people. In the process, we can confront climate change that threatens rising sea levels in the Caribbean, diminishing glaciers in the Andes, and powerful storms on the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Together, we have both the responsibility to act, and the opportunity to leave behind a legacy of greater prosperity and security. That is why I look forward to pursuing a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that will help us learn from one another, share technologies, leverage investment, and maximize our comparative advantage.

Just as we advance our common prosperity, we must advance our common security. Too many in our hemisphere are forced to live in fear. That is why the United States will strongly support respect for the rule of law, better law enforcement, and stronger judicial institutions.

Security for our citizens must be advanced through our commitment to partner with those who are courageously battling drug cartels, gangs and other criminal networks throughout the Americas. Our efforts start at home. By reducing demand for drugs and curtailing the illegal flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our border, we can advance security in the United States and beyond. And going forward, we will sustain a lasting dialogue in the hemisphere to ensure that we are building on best practices, adapting to new threats, and coordinating our efforts.

Finally, the Summit gives every democratically-elected leader in the Americas the opportunity to reaffirm our shared values. Each of our countries has pursued its own democratic journey, but we must be joined together in our commitment to liberty, equality, and human rights. That is why I look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere can take its seat at the table consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And just as the United States seeks that goal in reaching out to the Cuban people, we expect all of our friends in the hemisphere to join together in supporting liberty, equality, and human rights for all Cubans.

This Summit offers the opportunity of a new beginning. Advancing prosperity, security and liberty for the people of the Americas depends upon 21st century partnerships, freed from the posturing of the past. That is the leadership and partnership that the United States stands ready to provide.

President Obama’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago (T & T) is also a good time to revisit the relationship between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago that goes way back.

During the War of 1812 the Corps of Colonial Marines was a military regiment composed of runaway slaves and free blacks. The Corps was formed to help the British fight a war against the United States. The United States had declared war on Britain because the British had been seizing American ships and forcing the sailors into servitude and because the Americans wanted to take Canada from the British.

Once the British reached American soil in 1812, many slaves ran away from their owners and went to meet them, hoping that the British would free them. The British told these runaways that if they en­listed in the British military and fought against the Americans, they would be freed and could return to England as soldiers or receive their own land in other British colonies once the War was over. This new regiment of runaway slaves was called the Colonial Marines.

In 1814, British Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane landed in Georgia. He issued a proclamation that stated “all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the United States” should join British ships and enlist in the Colonial Marines. Approximately 1,500 slaves ran away from their owners and joined the British. These new soldiers were given the same pay and rations as the white British soldiers.

The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814. It declared peace between England and the Unit­ed States. The War of 1812 was over. Many slave owners demanded that their slaves be returned. The British refused. They said that the slaves were on board British ships and those British ships counted as “British soil” which meant that the slaves were free.

Once the British sailed away from the United States, many of the Colonial Marines were relocated to the British colony of Trinidad where they settled as free citizens and their descendants still live today.



April 6, 2009

The Obamas – Larger Than Life In London (and Europe)

IT’S invariably the little things, the unconsidered, off the cuff, in passing, unrehearsed things that snag our attention, and seem to be telling of the bigger things.

president-obama-dowing-street-british-police1  In the case of Barack Obama’s first visit to London and the Group of 20 conference to save the endangered habitat of bankers and real estate salesmen, it was the handshake with the bobby that seemed to be emblematic. In a forest of waving palms, this handshake meant more.

As the president stepped up to 10 Downing Street, he leant over, made eye contact, said something courteous, and shook the hand of the police officer standing guard. There’s always a police officer there; he is a tourist logo in his ridiculous helmet. He tells you that this is London, and the late 19th century. No one has ever shaken the hand of the policeman before, and like everyone else who has his palm touched by Barack Obama, he was visibly transported and briefly forgot himself. He offered the hand to Gordon Brown, the prime minister, who was scuttling behind.

It was ignored. He was left empty-handed. It isn’t that Mr. Brown snubbed the police officer; he just didn’t see him. To a British politician, a police officer is as invisible as the railings.

But the rest of us noticed. Because in this country that still feels the class system like a phantom limb, being overtly kind to servants is the very height of manners, the mark of true nobility. Being nice to the staff is second only to being nice to dogs as a pinnacle of civilization. Remember: a butler’s not just for Christmas. Apparently, the Obamas searched every cupboard and closet in Downing Street to personally thank all the servants for looking after them. That’s classlessly classy.

You often wonder what visiting dignitaries make of your country; American presidents must think that the whole world is in a constant state of riot. Wherever they go, CNN is full of angry banners, burning flags and tear gas. I went and joined the London riot. It was depressingly flabby, and half-hearted. Not so much a demonstration as a queue of arcane special pleading groups, ranging from anarchists for bicycles (who all waited politely at the traffic lights) and one-world vegans. Altogether, they looked like a collective of European street mimes.

A couple of broken windows and teeth, and that was it. The London police have discovered that the best way to neuter demonstrations is not to move everyone on, or disperse troublemakers, but hold them close, cordon them into a diminishing space for hours and hours, as a sort of arbitrary al fresco arrest. The crowd goes from righteous indignation to fury to despair, and ends up pleading. They’re all desperate to go. Its crowd control by bladder control: effective but probably illegal.

The Obamas were likely also surprised at how black the old white colonial country is. Ethnic diversity is shamelessly and embarrassingly pushed to the front of every publicity shot. Michelle Obama went to a girl’s school where a gospel song was performed and where she made a surprisingly moving speech. All the world leaders’ wives are herded together in cultural outings of excruciatingly bland probity, but Mrs. Obama rose above it, and seemed to really inspire this group of young girls. It was noticed. The rest of the women grinned and clutched their handbags, apparently wondering when they could get away to Harrods.

queen-elizabeth-ii-minature  The other thing that she rose above was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip: Honey, we shrunk the royal family. If ever we needed a totemic image of the merits of a republic over a monarchy, this was it.

first-ladies1  Of all the G-20 wives, Carla Bruni, a k a Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, was noticeably absent. With her carefully demure wardrobe and the fluttered eyes of a reformed and legitimized mistress, she was too canny to let her herself be compared to those dumpy other halves. It left one dying to see what Jackie O.-type manipulation would go down when the Obamas crossed the Channel for the NATO summit meeting.

president-sarkozy  The French are never happy coming to London; this is an ancient and comforting enmity. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France plays nicely to our patronizing stereotypes. He is a small man, a Gallic in lifts who can’t hide the puffed-up, tip-toe insecurities of his shortness. Almost as if he wanted the world to think he has Napoleon syndrome, he postured and pouted and made arbitrary demands, and drew lines in the sand.

The truth is that the French have never really got over being dumped at the altar of the “special relationship.” It should have been them. It was after all, the French who gave you the Statue of Liberty and the keys to the Bastille and who think Jerry Lewis is funny. What did the English ever give you? Muffins and a burnt White House.

The Germans, too, might have imagined a tighter partnership. In terms of ancestry, America is a far more German country than an Anglo-Saxon one, and they have the biggest economy in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Mr. Sarkozy made a joint statement that they would categorically veto any further bailouts or attempts to spend our way out of debt, and then a mere 24 hours later they were beaming and shaking hands over an extra trillion-dollar binge.

Czech Republic Europe Obama  The salutary fact is that when you look at the grinning group photograph, there is only one face you want to see. This conference was about saving the world, but more important for the participants, it was about saving their political lives. Mr. Obama is the only popular politician left in the world. He would win an election in any one of the G-20 countries, and his fellow world leaders will do anything to take home a touch of that reflected popularity.

Czech Republic US Obama  Czech Republic Europe Obama  Czech Republic Europe Obama  We may be in the rare position of having an American president who has a deeper mandate among people who could never vote for him than with those who did. For the time being, he has only to offer his hand, and ask politely.

Original post at:


Brilliantly and deliciously written by A. A. GILL

A. A. Gill is a contributing writer for Vanity Fair and The Sunday Times of London.

Published: April 4, 2009



April 2, 2009

G20 Gives Super Powers To The IMF

imf  The International Monetary Fund has received super financial powers at the G20 meetings and it seems to me that we might be on our way to a New World Financial Order.

Let me say that I am not a financial whiz by ANY stretch of the imagination.  I’m just reading between the lines and trying to explain what I see with my limited financial vocabulary.  If you’re a financial expert and see any mistakes I made I would appreciate it if you let me know.

The IMF is a group of 185 countries who contribute money to a ‘pool’ and members can borrow from the pool on a temporary basis.  All UN member countries contribute to the IMF except for Taiwan, North Korea, Cuba, Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Tuvalu, and Nauru. The IMF was set up in 1944 to help countries who get into short-term financial crises because they don’t have enough currency to pay their bills — it offers short-term loans to help those countries get through financially difficult times.

Like the financial bailouts here in America, if you have to borrow from the IMF then you give up some of your independence and power.  Once you borrow from the IMF it imposes strict conditions on countries that take out a ‘loan’ — for example, strict requirements that the borrowing countries cut their budget deficits.

Initially it was mostly European countries that turned to the IMF for help. But as you can imagine in recent years developing countries have been forced to ask for help since times are especially hard and with more countries going to the IMF for financial assistance its supply of funds is dwindling fast.

Because of this the G20 has decided that the IMF should have more money for loans.  The G20 wants the IMF to have enough money in its coffers to triple its lending and ensure that it has enough money to offer loans to needy countries. New monies for the IMF would come from member countries. So far both Japan and the EU have already committed to loan the IMF $100 billion each. 

Right now the IMF is trying something new, instead of waiting for countries to get into financial difficulties the IMF is now offering countries a line of credit to help them protect their currencies before they fall on their financial knees. Up until now countries were reluctant to ask for this kind of loan since the financial markets would get worried that they were a big risk and react negatively toward these countries. Mexico is the first country to ask for this kind of bridge loan and the stigma once associated with kind of loan seems to have vanished — another sign of the times. Most of these funds will be available to middle income countries that have relatively sound economies.

The G20 leaders also agreed on a revolutionary move that will give individual countries an additional $250 billion in available and accessible (liquid) funds. These countries would be able to create more of their own currency supported by the SDR or special drawing right.  The SDR is an international reserve currency that operates as a supplement to existing reserve assets. This new initiative would give countries essentially free money, which they could use as they wish without having to negotiate deals with the IMF, and would do much to boost confidence among poorer and developing countries.

In the past Germany has been against this kind of assistance since creating money is inflationary. But in the current deflationary climate Germany seems to be lifting their opposition.

The IMF is also developing an early warning system for financial problems and taking a larger role in looking at the problems of the financial sector as a whole, in conjunction with a new global regulator the Financial Services Board in hopes of helping to prevent future world wide crisis.

In 2012 there will be another HUGE change at the IMF – they will evaluate their voting structure which could lead to the US losing its veto power.  At the same time China (Russia’s cousin) and other up-and-coming countries would have greater influence.

It has also been decided that going forward the tradition that the World Bank and IMF must be headed by an American and a European respectively will be abandoned and will be open to any member state .  In return China will lend some of its reserves to the IMF and China will also continue to lobby that the SDR will become a real reserve currency that will ultimately replace the dollar.

The changes to the capital and the role of the IMF are historic and perhaps the most important outcome of the G20 summit and it seems to me that this is a move towards a more global system of international finance and maybe a global currency.

April 1, 2009

Video – President Obama Meets The Press At 10 Downing Street

During his joint press conference with PM Brown, President Obama denied there is a rift between America and the world and urged leaders of the G20 countries to act in unison to find a way out of the global economic crisis.  President Obama called reports of an international division “vastly overstated.”

 “Nearly every country engaged here has done a fiscal stimulus. We can only meet this challenge together.” Obama said.  Rather than play up their differences, Mr. Obama urged leaders to “focus on common ground.”

President Obama is under pressure to show that the US — which much of the world blames for igniting the economic crisis — can lead the way out. “I came here to put forward ideas but I also came here to listen, not to lecture,” President Obama said. “Having said that, we must not miss an opportunity to lead, to confront a crisis that knows no borders.”

Prime Minister Brown promised reporters that French President Nicholas Sarkozy would not walk out of the Group of 20 meeting on Thursday. President Sarkozy was quoted by officials in his government as saying he would walk away from the summit if it failed to meet his demands for measures to confront the crisis. His attitude reflected what he depicted as major objections by both France and Germany.

“I will not be associated with a summit that concludes by making false promises,” President Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio earlier today before leaving for London. “As things stand, the drafts that are on the table do not satisfy either France or Germany.”

President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel of Germany is expected to hold a rare joint press conference later today where they may present a united front against the American model of more stimulus spending. 

German Chancellor Merkel is feeling historical emotional pressure and is afraid to offer a stimulus in her country that may cause inflation.  During the early 1920s Germany was in the middle of a “hyperinflation” and many of its citizen’s life savings were wiped out. Adding insult to injury, in late 1929 the German economy fell victim to worldwide financial depression and industrial production, employment and sales fell and support for Adolf Hitler grew. As the financial crisis in Germany escalated so did Hitler’s popularity and he became Chancellor in 1933 and the rest is history.  Chancellor Merkel who is up for re-election is afraid to side with Obama and Brown because German citizens believe that a stimulus will lead to inflation and Merkel is afraid that German citizens will have a flash back to Hitler and not re-elect her.

March 31, 2009

Schedule: President and Mrs. Obama Goes To Europe

Obama  Obama 



The Obamas are scheduled to arrive in London approximately 7:30pm local time (3:30pm EST).  The UK is 4 hours ahead of EST.


President and Mrs. Obama will breakfast with Prime Minister and Mrs. Brown at 10 Downing Street then President Obama will hold talks with Prime Minister Brown.  Meetings with Russian President Dmitriy Anatolyevich Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao will follow and then Obama will meet with David Cameron, leader of the British Conservative Party and end the day with her Majesty the Queen of England.


The big day.  G20 summit. 

President Obama will also meet the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.


Departs for Strasbourg, France (Near the German border)

President Obama will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and hold a town-hall meeting.  He will then travel to Baden-Baden, Germany where he will visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and will then return to Strasbourg.


Attends NATO summit in Strasbourg.

Departs for Prague, Czech Republic


Attends EU-US summit.

Departs for Ankara, Turkey


Departs Ankara for U.S of A


Obama  Obama  . 

Our POTUS and First Lady arrived in Britain at Stansted Airport in Essex, England at 7:51pm GMT (3:51pm EST), where they were met on the tarmac by Chancellor Alistair Darling and his wife Margaret and Britain’s Charge D’Affair’s Richard LeBaron and his wife Jean Foshee LeBaron. They then travelled on Marine One to the grounds of Winfield House, the U.S. Ambassador’s London residence. 


March 27, 2009

Blue-Eyed Whites to Blame for Bank Crisis

president-lula-brazil-and-gordon-brown-pm1  Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva in the past has argued that poor and developing nations have been victims of mistakes made in richer countries, caused by irresponsibility or a lack of regulation in the world’s banking systems.

Appearing at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown just days ahead of the crucial G20 summit in London, he branded those he thought should be blamed for the world’s economic crisis in a less than articulate manner by saying, “It is a crisis caused and encouraged by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything, but are now showing that they know nothing.”

Later questioned by a reporter, President Lula expanded and further explained his theory by saying that it wasn’t native Indians, nor black, nor poor people that had created and spread the crisis throughout the world and that the world’s poor people should not be forced to pay for the global financial crisis. Quote, “As I do not know any black or indigenous bankers I can only say it is not possible for this part of mankind, which is victimized more than any other, to pay for the crisis.” 

President Lula is also calling for increased regulation of banks and is against protectionism saying, “I compare protectionism to a drug, why do people use drugs? Because they are in crisis and they think the drug will help them. But its effects pass quickly.”

Prime Minister Brown managed not to look uncomfortable but said that he preferred not to attribute blame to individuals.

I can agree that ‘those in charge’ acted like they knew everything and we now know that they knew nothing.  They were pretty much gambling on the highest level with money that wasn’t theirs to gamble with.  I believe that the powers that be demonstrated that they were narcissistic, connoisseurs of greed and financially gluttonous beyond belief but the whole white devil thing is inappropriate especially from a world leader.

Brazil which has historically been a struggling country has been a model of success in Latin America as of late. According to a recent article in Time, Brazil may well be one of 34 major economies that may come out of the global recession undamaged. Brazil’s state-run energy company, Petrobras, is set to expand operations, although at the moment its workers are striking over changes in their profit-sharing plan.

When unregulated capitalism was out of control in Brazil the government imposed financial regulations, while at the same time assisting corporations to promote job growth and distributed some of the wealth to help Brazil’s legions of poor rise from poverty to take their place amongst the middle class.

February 26, 2009

President Obama’s Diplomacy At Work

I am so impressed with the amount of work that’s being accomplished simultaneously for the American people by the Obama administration.  This team have only been office for 5 weeks and look at all they have accomplished – impressive!

President Obama’s management style and approach has already made a world of difference in the way America is viewed, feared and respected. 

Three years ago President George W. Bush could barely get the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan to be polite to each other. When Bush pressured Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and Hamid Karzai of Afghan to pay a visit to the White House they came kicking and screaming and wouldn’t shake hands!

secretary-of-state-hillary-clinton-2-25-09 Yesterday night it was very different story.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan and his Afghan counterpart, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, had a ‘nice’ dinner together and assured each other that they were committed to fighting extremists in both countries. The objective of the talks was to produce a new strategy for the region – the two Ministers camps in the same room talking about a common approach was definitely a step in the right direction.

In the same way the Bush administration spent three years urging the Egyptian government to free Ayman Nour, the country’s most prominent political dissident, to no avail. But last week, in a move that many interpreted as a goodwill gesture, the Egyptian government abruptly released Nour, citing “medical reasons.”

Likewise, two weeks ago, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia dismissed two powerful religious figures — including the head of the cane-wielding hard-core religious police known as the mutawa — as part of a government shuffle that appeared aimed at reforming the kingdom’s hard-line religious establishment.

While it might be a stretch to think that King Abdullah, who has been slowly inching toward modest reform, suddenly cast out the head of his religious police to suck up to the Obama administration, the new cooperation coming from the Egyptian, Afghan and Pakistani governments however is a clear-cut confirmation that these three governments want to work with President Obama.

“I think the Ayman Nour release is definitely connected to Obama,” said George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It was a fairly simple thing for the Obama administration to say to the Egyptians that if you want Mubarak to see our guy, this has to happen.”

As for “Afpak” — the new shorthand for Afghanistan/Pakistan being popularized by Richard Holbrooke, the new high-level American envoy for the two countries — Perkovich says that both governments are trying to put their best foot forward. They expect demands from the Obama administration for the Afghan government to do more to fight corruption and drug trafficking, which many in the West believe has helped to fuel the resurgent Taliban and for Pakistan to do more to crack down on extremists in the border region.

Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat known for dragging reluctant Serbs to the peace table during the Balkans conflict. Perkovich suggests that the prospect of being put under any kind of judicial scrutiny by President Obama may have scared the Afghan and Pakistani delegations into making nice. “Some of this is them saying, ‘O.K., these guys mean business, and Holbrooke is going to be coming out here every month, so let’s see if with little gestures we can turn down the pressure.’ “

The United States wants Pakistan to focus more on insurgents and a little less on its long-running fight with India, which Washington believes is occupying the Pakistani Army, whose time would be better spent — in America’s view — on Afpak, instead of what might be called Indiapak.

Pakistan‘s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has asked the United States to provide unmanned aircraft that would allow Pakistan to strike extremists hiding in rugged terrain along the Afghan border.  Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in an interview that Pakistan, and not the United States, should have control of the missile strikes that have killed high-level extremists but also civilians.

The U.S. missile strikes are one of the most sensitive issues in U.S.-Pakistan ties. Qureshi said they are making it harder for his government to persuade infuriated Pakistanis along the frontier to support the fight against militants. “We feel that if the technology is transferred to Pakistan, Pakistan will be in a better position to determine how to use the technology and, without alienating people, achieve the objective,” Qureshi said.

“Pakistan is a willing partner with the U.S. in this fight,” he said. “Let us exercise that judgment.”  The Bush government, Qureshi said, “had a point of view, and it was like the approach was, ‘This is it; take it or leave it.'”

The Egyptians want the United States to do a little more to press Israel on settlements in the West Bank. And in Afghanistan, where the presidential election season will be getting under way soon, Karzai has been striking increasingly anti-American tones, in a move to distance himself from the United States at a time when America is viewed with increasing hostility in that country.

“At the end of the day, we have some very significant policy differences with all of these countries,” Pollack said.

president-obama-japan-pm-taro-aso-2-24-09 On Tuesday President Obama continued with his diplomacy push and met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. Obama told Aso that the United States wanted to strengthen ties with Japan, a country Obama described as the cornerstone of U.S. security policy in East Asia and a major economic partner. Aso, who is struggling to stay in power, was the first foreign leader to visit the Obama White House, and the president called the prestigious invitation “a testimony to the strong partnership between the United States and Japan.”

“The friendship between the United States and Japan is extraordinarily important to our country,” Obama told reporters. “We think that we have an opportunity to work together, not only on issues related to the Pacific Rim but throughout the world.”

The Japanese leader, sitting next to Obama in the Oval Office before their private meeting, said the world’s top two economies “will have to work together hand in hand” to solve the “very critical, vital issue of the world.”

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