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Obama brings Mideast policy push on Europe, G8 trip

President Barack Obama delivers a speech on United States' policy regarding the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young
President Barack Obama delivers a speech on United States' policy regarding the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will use a European tour next week to urge U.S. allies to help advance the movement for democratic change offered by the "Arab spring" uprisings in the Middle East.

The stalemated military conflict in Libya, U.S. efforts to begin pulling troops from Afghanistan this summer and Group of Eight talks on restoring global economic growth will all play a central role in Obama's talks with foreign leaders.

Obama visits Ireland, Britain, France and Poland, a weeklong jaunt that will create powerful images beamed back home for Americans pondering whether to give him another term in office in November 2012.

Obama will hold one-on-one talks with the leaders of Ireland and Britain, both of whom have advanced tough austerity measures to tackle economic hard times, steps Obama is trying to avoid in a festering budget battle with the U.S. Congress.

At the G8 summit in Deauville, France, he will meet individually with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the sidelines of the summit meetings.

These talks and others will give Obama an opportunity to advance his ideas for promoting democratic reforms in North Africa and the Middle East. He carries with him a major U.S. success -- the May 2 killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, seen as an important blow against Islamic militants.

Obama, accused at home of being slow to react to the fast-paced Middle East events and inconsistent in his response, has proposed economic aid for Egypt and Tunisia and hopes to use them as examples for the rest of the region.

"A new generation has emerged, and their voices tell us that change cannot be denied," Obama said in an address outlining new U.S. policies toward the region on Thursday.

While Obama's blueprint for Arab-Israeli peace talks has drawn fire from pro-Israel critics at home, he may find some world leaders more inclined to back his proposal for a Palestinian state drawn along the lines that existed before the 1967 war in which Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem.


The first African-American president, son of a Kenyan father and Irish-American mother, will visit Moneygall, a sleepy Irish village that was the birthplace of his great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, a shoemaker.

"His great-great-great grandson will be returning to Ireland next Monday as president of the United States. It's a story of improbable success, almost of Irish legend," said Irish ambassador to the United States Michael Collins, referring to Kearney.

This places Obama among the 37 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry, many of whom vote.

In Britain, Obama will revel in the pomp and circumstance of a traditional state visit to a top U.S. ally, staying two nights at Buckingham Palace as the guest of Queen Elizabeth. He will address the British parliament to hail the special U.S.-British relationship and stress the importance of transatlantic ties.

The G8 summit will give Obama an opportunity to push for a speedy decision to pick a new chief of the International Monetary Fund to succeed the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of sexual assault by a New York hotel worker.

White House deputy national security adviser Michael Froman said Obama wants an open process that leads to a prompt decision on a new IMF head.

Obama and his NATO allies will seek to determine whether the military conflict in Libya can be a success. While many Libyan civilians have been protected, Gaddafi remains in power.

Obama ends his visit in Poland, where he will meet Central European leaders.

(Editing by Paul Simao)