LONDON — Presidential contender Barack Obama defended his decision to travel to Europe and the Middle East on Saturday, saying that problems encountered by Americans at home are often best dealt with by working with allies overseas.
Obama, who spoke to reporters after wrapping up talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said he wasn’t sure if there would be any immediate political impact from the trip.
“The reason that I thought this trip was important is that I am convinced that many issues that we face at home are not going to be solved as effectively unless we have strong partners abroad,” Obama said.
Obama, a first-term senator, was on a tour designed to burnish his international credentials for the general election campaign against Republican rival Sen. John McCain. The trip began with a campaign-season tour of the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and ended with meetings with old allies France and Britain. Obama returned to the United States late Saturday.
The Democratic hopeful seemed relaxed as he strolled down to the prime minister’s office at 10 Downing St., pausing briefly to shake the hands of two somewhat startled police officers standing near the door.
He turned to television cameras, smiled, waved and said “Hello,” before walking into Number 10. Brown greeted him just inside the door.
Pooled television images showed Brown offering Obama a chair on the Downing Street terrace before the pair settled down for two hours of talks.
The pair later took a stroll in the sunshine around Horse Guards Parade, the vast open space where military reviews are often held. Tourists snapped pictures while security guards walked ahead of the two men.
The stroll in the vast arena offered a photo opportunity with a London backdrop for Obama, whose visit to London has been decidedly low-key, particularly after the huge crowds he drew earlier in the week in Germany.
Earlier, he met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is now a Middle East envoy. The meeting lasted for just over an hour.
Later, Obama was expected to meet with opposition leader David Cameron of the Conservative Party.
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Meeting in paris
Obama arrived in London from Paris, where he met Friday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Obama and Sarkozy discussed Iran, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change and other issues.
Speaking later Friday at a news conference, Obama said Iran should accept the proposals made by Sarkozy and other Western leaders. He urged Iran's leaders not to wait for the next U.S. president to push them "because the pressure, I think, is only going to build."
The United States and other Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and demand that it freeze its uranium enrichment program. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Obama said that he and Sarkozy agreed that Iran poses "an extraordinarily grave situation." He said the world must send "a clear message to Iran to end its illicit nuclear program."
Video: Obama in London Obama said: "My expectation is that we're going to present a clear choice to Iran: change your behavior and you will be fully integrated into the international community with all the benefits that go with that. Continue your illicit nuclear program and the international community as a whole will ratchet up pressure with stronger and increased sanctions. And we should have no illusion that progress will come easily."
'We have to win'
Obama told reporters that "Afghanistan is a war we have to win." The Taliban and terrorist groups it supports, he said, pose an unacceptable threat to the United States, France and other nations.
"We've got to finish the job," said Obama, who often has said the Iraq war was an unwise move that distracted the United States from efforts to find Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders and to root out the Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Sarkozy said he agreed that the Taliban must be defeated in Afghanistan, where French troops are part of a multinational force.
The joint news conference had many light moments. Sarkozy called his guest "my dear Barack Obama," and said the French have been following the U.S. presidential race "with passion."
"It's fascinating to watch what's happening there," he said.
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