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News Wrap: Obama, Cameron Underscore Commitment to Libyan Mission

May 25, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama got to business during his state visit to Britain today. He said Anglo-American influence in the world is enduring, and he reinforced a commitment to see the mission in Libya through to the end.

We have a report from Gary Gibbon of Independent Television News.

GARY GIBBON: State visits are opportunities for kind words and photo calls. And Number 10 thinks they don’t come better than this, president and prime minister serving burgers to British and American military servicemen at a Downing Street barbecue.

After lunch, there was an address, the first by a U.S. president to both houses of parliament gathered in Westminster Hall.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am told that the last three speakers here have been the pope, Her Majesty the Queen, and Nelson Mandela, which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke.

(LAUGHTER)

GARY GIBBON: President Obama said that, despite the rise of China, now was the time for Britain and the U.S. to take the lead in the world, and that the values of the two countries gave them special strengths.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The example of our two nations says it is possible for people to be united by their ideals, instead of divided by their differences, that it’s possible for hearts to change and old hatreds to pass, that it’s possible for the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great Parliament, and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British Army to stand before you as president of the United States.

GARY GIBBON: And while some wilted in the heat of the afternoon, President Obama said that the democracy movement in North Africa and the Middle East proved that ideals Britain and the U.S. promoted were universally shared.

Earlier, the president had talks in Downing Street on the practicalities behind all the rhetoric. On Afghanistan, the two administrations are focused on getting troops out. Their main arguments seem to be more often with their own generals. On Libya, the United States has held back, telling European NATO countries that they should take the lead in their own Mediterranean backyard.

At a joint press conference, Barack Obama said dealing with the Gadhafi regime in Libya wouldn’t be a quick fix and people must be patient.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That there may be a false perception that there are a whole bunch of secret, super-effective air assets that are in a warehouse somewhere that could just be pulled out and that would somehow immediately solve the situation in Libya. That’s not the case. But, ultimately, this is going to be slow, steady process, in which we’re able to wear down the regime forces.

GARY GIBBON: David Cameron led a recent stock-take on British policy which triggered the latest intensified bombing of Libyan targets. He said the two men were at one on Libya.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also returned to the issue of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He said each side has to look at the long term, and not what he called short-term tactical interests, if there’s going to be progress.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am confident that can be achieved. It is going to require wrenching compromise by both sides. That’s not something that any party from the outside is going to be able to impose on them. But what I am absolutely certain of is that, if they’re not talking, we’re not going to make any progress.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Obama also defended his public call last week for a return to 1967 borders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flatly rejected the idea again yesterday in his speech to the U.S. Congress
Today, former President Bill Clinton said it is something of a tempest in a teapot. He was interviewed by Gwen Ifill at a forum in Washington.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: What the president said was maybe too much shorthand and raised a lot of questions.

Don’t let this thing get off the tracks here because of the way what the president said and what Prime Minister Netanyahu said have been juxtaposed. You can overstate the divide here. As long as they’re both willing to keep talking about this, I think they should.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Clinton said it is worth noting that, in his speech, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to give up some West Bank settlements for the first time.

In Yemen, forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh battled opposition tribes in the capital city for a third day. At least 41 people have been killed since the fighting erupted in Sanaa on Monday. It started after Saleh’s troops tried to storm the compound of an influential tribal leader. Smoke could be seen rising from the site again today.

But Saleh accused his opponents of fomenting civil war. And he insisted he will not step down, despite international pressure.

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, president of Yemen (through translator): We do not want any foreign intervention or solution from outside of Yemen. It is a Yemeni issue. We should go into a dialogue with all political sides. A solution will come from us, and not from the outside.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As the fighting continued, hundreds of Yemenis fled the capital.

The eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland appeared to be winding down today and just in time for air travelers in Europe. A drifting cloud of ash closed four airports across Northern Germany for several hours, and forced some 700 flight cancellations. But Europe’s air traffic agency was hopeful.

BRIAN FLYNN, Eurocontrol: There are very little, very few eruptions from the volcano over the last six-to-12 hours, so the volcano is in a reasonably calm state at the moment. And assuming that continues we would expect that European aviation would be able to return to an almost normal situation within the next 24 hours.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The flight disruptions this week were far less severe than those of last year, when another Icelandic volcano erupted. Still, several airlines in Britain and Ireland said even limited cancellations were unnecessary because there was little danger.

The man accused of shooting U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial. A federal judge issued the ruling today in Phoenix, Ariz., for Jared Lee Loughner. He is accused of killing six people and wounding 13, including Giffords, at a January event in Tucson. Loughner will be sent to a federal facility for up to four months to see if his mental state improves. The criminal case is on hold indefinitely.

On Wall Street today, stocks made modest gains after oil prices moved back above $101 a barrel and gave energy companies a boost. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 38 points to close above 12,394. The Nasdaq rose 15 points to close at 2,761.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.