Tuesday, October 7, 2008

President Obama's First Overseas Trip

Associated Press, WASHINGTON, March 1, 2009 On a widely anticipated trip, U.S. President Barack Obama achieved his objectives of beginning a new dialogue with the rest of the world. "After eight years of leadership in the United States that was unable to listen the the international community and who thought it was better to ask the world to follow it, we have now a profound change." Obama stated during a brief stop in Ottawa, Canada. Obama spoke with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper about common American-Canadian relations.
Before beginning his trip, Obama met with Iraqi President Jalal Talibani on February 16. "On behalf of the people of the United States, I feel compelled to apologize for what the previous administration has done to Iraq, particularly to your region." Obama said during a televised sit down. Talibani, a Kurd, brought a bouquet of roses to lay at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington. Talibani noted that it was the 21st anniversary of the destruction of the Kurdish city of Halabja by Iraqi chemical weaponry. Obama nodded in agreement, adding, "Thank you for bringing that to my attention."
Obama started the trip in Ottawa before landing in London to talk with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The two enjoy a cordial relationship. Obama's next stop was in Rome to speak with PM Silvio Berlusconi and Spanish PM Jose Zapatero. Zapatero heaped praise on the new President, stating, "We now have a leader that understands that the United States cannot go around doing what it thinks is best." On a different note, Berlusconi endorsed the idea of a 'League of Democracies" which was proposed by presidential candidate John McCain last year. Obama made no direct response, but later said, "By only listening to countries that we deem 'democratic' leaves out the will of millions of others and the governments of nations so often dismissed by the Bush administration."
From Rome, Obama landed in Egypt to speak with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "Egypt is an icon for Muslim democracy." Obama said during a press conference. The topic of much of the stay in Egypt was the situation in Darfur. Obama stated, "What has happened in Darfur is unacceptable. Under no circumstances can we allow it to continue." Obama notified the press that he had instructed the U.S.'s ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright to bring forward a resolution calling for a U.N. peacekeeping force. Later in the day, after Russia and China had vetoed the resolution, Obama stated, "We must adhere to the will of the world community, no matter the consequences."
In an unexpected change, Obama landed in Pristina, Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia last year. Obama met with the newly formed government and stated in a speech attended by up to 800 Kosovars, "The United States has learned that its reckless interventionism over the last ten years has made the world less secure and has cost thousands of innocent lives. By acting separate from the U.N., we have damaged our credibility and lost the respect of the world." To Obama's surprise, the small crowd began intermittent booing. Obama was informed later that Kosovo was bombed in 1999 without U.N. approval to stop the genocide of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces. In addition, in 2008 Kosovo declared itself an independent democratic nation without U.N. approval. "I did not know that." Obama would tell reporters. "However, it does not make my statements any less true, any less fitting for today."
Obama's second to last stop was in Moscow, Russia. Obama met with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. Obama praised Medvedev by stating, "By acting independently and with authority, Russia swiftly defeated an invasion by neighboring Georgia last year. While some actions may have been seen as heavy handed, the question must be asked if this is so much worse than the U.S. invasion of Iraq."
Obama's final stop was in Paris. Obama chose not to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy, but instead appealed directly to the French people. Obama was greeting by a crowd of almost a half a million, to which he stated, "America has not respected France and its great history. France opposed war in Iraq before it was in vogue and has always worked for a peaceful solution. France is a world leader, and it is about time that America keep her ears open."
Obama landed back in Washington yesterday where he plans to meet with President Bashar al-Asad of Syria. In the past, Obama had praised Syria for its "...commitment to ending the war in Iraq." Obama's approval rating in the U.S. is at 55%, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll. Zogby recently published an index of world opinion, giving Obama a 81% approval rate in Western Europe with 8% disapproving. In Eastern Europe, the numbers were 34%-60% and in the Middle East excepting Iraq and Israel it was 84%-11%. In Israel, the numbers were 21%-70% after Obama agreed to 'limited sales' of plutonium to Iran for 'peaceful purposes.'

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