In his first trip across the Atlantic, President Barack Obama hopes to sway European allies that his young administration could improve the global economy and the United States' image.
Obama arrived in England on Tuesday to kick off an eight-day, five-country trip in which he'll meet with European leaders who split with the United States over the war in Iraq and treatment of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under President George W. Bush.
First up: a summit of the world's economic powers in London to address the global financial meltdown that has defined the first two months of Obama's administration.
"The president and America are going to listen in London, as well as to lead," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
G-20 is trip’s centerpiece
The main event in London is Thursday's summit on the global financial crisis among the Group of 20 wealthy and developing nations that together represent 85 percent of the world's economy.
Economic growth elsewhere, though, also found spots on Obama's agenda. He planned to meet with leaders of Britain, Russia and China — major players in the U.S. financial system. He also scheduled meetings while in London with the leaders of India and South Korea.
But money is not the sole agenda item. Obama plans to attend international summits on urgent topics including the downward-spiraling fight against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also, he will make his first stop as president in a Muslim nation, Turkey.
Wildly popular around the globe but relatively inexperienced in foreign affairs, Obama also will squeeze in a Buckingham Palace audience with Queen Elizabeth II, joined by his wife, Michelle; deliver a speech in France on the trans-Atlantic relationship; deliver an address in the Czech Republic on weapons proliferation; and take part in a round-table session with students in Turkey.
When Obama went to Europe last summer, he was a senator seeking the presidency, and was received like a rock star. His welcome this time is expected to be no less enthusiastic, given his early moves.
Since taking office, Obama has made down payments on several campaign promises that had endeared him to Europe, such as addressing global warming and moving to end the Iraq war and close the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Each issue had stoked acrimony toward his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the president's visit and the series of meetings.
Protesters in London Tuesday sat down for tea, cake and cookies outside the Bank of England — just one demonstration in a series expected this week. The protests are aimed at Obama and other leaders attending the summit.
A handful of demonstrators laid out tea-time goodies at the heart of London's financial district, saying they hoped many more would join them Wednesday, dubbed "Financial Fools Day" by organizers.
Police have said they face an unprecedented security challenge from the presence of a score of world leaders alongside thousands of anti-capitalist, environmental and other demonstrators protesting the impact of the economic meltdown.