- Kuwait Times Extra
LONDON : Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney yesterday plunged into a series of meetings with British leaders, including Prime Minister David Cameron, as he sought to project an image of leadership during the first stop of a weeklong overseas swing that will include Israel and Poland. Romney, a former businessman and one-term governor, is largely untested on the world’s political stage, and he hopes to assert himself in a tight and highly expensive presidential race.
“The world is a tumultuous and dangerous place,” he said yesterday. “And certainly in many of the regions around the world we have great interests in having a common effort in seeing greater peace and prosperity.” Meeting with British officials is typically one of the first priorities of any new U.S. president, and establishing those relationships beforehand can help smooth any transition. President Barack Obama met with British leaders when he took a trip abroad while campaigning for president in 2008.
Romney and Cameron met privately and exchanged pleasantries soon after Romney startled the British by telling NBC News it wasn’t clear whether Britain could overcome the issues that have dogged its final preparations for the Olympics. “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” he said, and he called the late-developing concerns over security staffing “disconcerting.” The Republican managed the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.
During the public portion of his meeting with Cameron, Romney weighed in again. “It is impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur,” he said. “Of course there will be errors from time to time, but those are all overshadowed by the extraordinary demonstrations of courage, character and determination by the athletes.”
Cameron told reporters that Romney and others would soon “see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver.” After the meeting, Romney told reporters that he and Cameron spoke “at length” about Syria as well as Libya, Pakistan and other countries. He did not give details, saying discussion of foreign policy should be made by the president and the administration overseas and not by those seeking office. He did thank British soldiers for fighting alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
It wasn’t Romney’s first meeting with Cameron. The two also talked during a Romney visit to London in 2011. This year, Cameron traveled to the U.S., where he met Obama and attended a state dinner in Washington but did not meet with Romney. Romney also will spend part of his time in London raising money and highlighting his Olympics experience with an appearance Friday at the opening ceremonies of the London Games.
He met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who now serves as a special envoy to the Middle East. The Romney campaign said the two discussed the Middle East peace process, the situation in Syria, Iran and the wider region. They also discussed economic issues facing both countries. Romney then met with Ed Miliband, the current leader of the Labour Party – the opposition to Cameron’s Conservative Party. Before that session, Miliband invited two reporters from what he called “my side” to ask questions.
Romney declined to take questions from U.S. journalists. Meetings followed with Foreign Secretary William Hague and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. The meeting with a deputy prime minister is somewhat unusual. It’s happening because Britain has a coalition government, and Clegg’s Liberal Democrats govern alongside Cameron’s Conservative party. The meetings come a day after the Daily Telegraph newspaper published a story quoting an unidentified Romney campaign adviser saying the Republican believes the U.S. relationship with Britain is special because of shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” and the White House doesn’t appreciate that shared history.
Romney quickly distanced himself from any such view. “I don’t agree with whoever that adviser might be,” Romney told NBC News, “but do agree that we have a very common bond between ourselves and Great Britain.” Nonetheless, Vice President Joe Biden and top Obama aides criticized Romney. “The comments reported this morning are a disturbing start to a trip designed to demonstrate Gov. Romney’s readiness to represent the United States on the world’s stage,” Biden said.
Later yesterday, Romney planned to hold a high-dollar fundraiser in London’s tony Knightsbridge district. One of the hosts, former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, withdrew from the event after he resigned in the wake of a rate-rigging scandal wracking British banks.-AP
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