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Obama heading to Ireland, England, France, Poland. Michelle to Ireland, England only. Background briefing

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release May 20, 2011

PRESS BRIEFING BY
BEN RHODES,
DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS,
LIZ SHERWOOD-RANDALL,
SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND
SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS,
AND MIKE FROMAN,
DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR
INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
PREVIEWING THE PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO EUROPE

Via Conference Call

9:37 A.M. EDT

MR. VIETOR: Hello, everybody. Thanks for getting on. I know it's been a busy week for all of you and for us, and we appreciate it. Thanks to your dear friends at the Associated Press, we'll be doing this call on the record. So let me give you a quick run of show here.

You have Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, Liz Sherwood-Randall, special assistant to the President and senior director for European affairs, and Mike Froman, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs. If I said that too fast, e-mail me and I'll send it to you in a note.

And so we will do this call on the record, we will take some Q&A, and then with that I'll hand it over to Ben.

MR. RHODES: Great. Thanks, Tommy. I will -- I'll just go through the schedule and some of the principal objectives of the trip, and then Liz will be able to speak about our broader approach to Europe, and then Mike can run through the G8 portion of the trip.

This is a very important trip for the President to reaffirm our core alliances in the world, our European allies. When he came into office, as you know, a principal goal was strengthening those alliances and restoring America's standing. And we traveled quite a bit to Europe in the first year that we were in office and now this is the first multi-stop trip that we've taken to Europe in some time, since early in his first year.

I think it's an opportunity to coordinate and align our approaches on a number of issues. Just about everything that we're doing in the world we're collaborating closely with our European allies. It's also of course an important opportunity to underscore the ties between the United States and Europe that are grounded in interests and values but also large populations that live in the United States that have heritage back in a number of the countries that the President is visiting.

Our first stop on the trip is Ireland, and one of the people who has heritage in Ireland in the United States is, of course, the President. We arrive in Dublin on Monday morning, and the first event will be a meeting between the President and the First Lady, with President McAleese and her husband as well, an important opportunity to discuss both bilateral issues with President McAleese and also to honor her extraordinary legacy of serving the people of Ireland and advancing peace in Northern Ireland as well.

After that, the President will meet with the Taoiseach -- again, this will be with the First Lady -- to discuss a range of bilateral issues. Then the President will travel to Moneygall, Ireland, which is the town in Ireland from which the President's ancestors came. So this is a homecoming of sorts for President Obama. He's very excited to see this small town in Ireland from which he has roots, and we're very much looking forward to seeing some of the people of Moneygall and making a stop there.

After that, he'll return to Dublin, where he'll be able to deliver remarks at a public event about the ties between the United States and Ireland.

We spend the night in Dublin that night, and the next day, Tuesday, the 24th, travel to London. The United States and the United Kingdom, of course, enjoy a special relationship. There's no closer ally for the United States in the world than the United Kingdom. And we are coordinating with them and closely aligned with them on issues ranging from our efforts in Afghanistan, our counterterrorism efforts, our ongoing efforts in Libya, our G20 -- broader G20 agenda, and our nonproliferation activities, just to name a few.

So we are in absolute alignment with the British on a range of core national security interests and of course deeply share a set of values that have tied us together for many decades.

This is a state visit for the President so he will begin by arriving at Buckingham Palace, where he is very much looking forward to seeing the Queen and the Duke, who will be hosting him for this visit. After a range of arrival activities, he will have lunch with the Queen and the two U.S. and U.K. delegations. Then he will go to Westminster Abbey for a range of events associated with the state visit, including a wreath-laying ceremony there.

After that, we expect that he'll be able to see briefly Prime Minister Cameron -- the full bilateral program is the next day, though -- and pay a call on the opposition leader, the Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband. And then that night there is a dinner for the President and the First Lady that is being hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The next day, Wednesday, the 25th, the President will have a full bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Cameron. There they'll be able to discuss the agenda that I referenced -- I expect Afghanistan, counterterrorism, Iran, Libya, the global economy.

The Arab -- events in the Middle East and the Arab -- Middle East and North Africa will certainly be on the agenda, and so it will be an opportunity for the President to discuss some of the ideas he put forward in his speech yesterday, because we've been closely coordinating with the United Kingdom throughout the last several months, obviously with regard to Libya, but also with our broader support for democratic movements in the Middle East and North Africa. So this will be an important opportunity to discuss that set of issues as well.

Following that bilateral meeting, the President and the Prime Minister will be able to drop by an event that's being hosted by Mrs. Cameron and the First Lady to honor both military families, U.S. and U.K. service members and veterans. So this is -- of course, the U.S. and the U.K. have served together in many conflicts. Over the last several years, the United Kingdom has served alongside the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has made enormous sacrifices in those conflicts alongside us. So we felt it is important to honor that sacrifice and to discuss some of the ways that both of our countries can support our troops and military families.

After that, the two leaders will hold a press conference. Following that press conference, the President will deliver a speech to the U.K. Parliament. This will be the kind of anchor speech of this trip to Europe. It's a great honor for the President to be able to address the Parliament. And he'll be able to discuss both the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom and the interests and values that that alliance is rooted in, as well as the broader trans-Atlantic alliance and an imperative of the United States and Europe retaining and strengthening our cooperation around the world.

Following the speech to Parliament, the President will reciprocate the hospitality of the Queen and he will hold a dinner in her honor at Winfield House, which is the residence of the American ambassador in London. So, a busy day on day two.

Then on Thursday, May 26, the President will travel from London to Deauville, France for the G8 meetings. Mike will speak at greater length about the G8 agenda. I'll just add a few additional meetings.

We expect that the President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia. As you know, one of the core foreign policy objectives when we came into office was the Russia reset. It has been one of the most productive relationships for the United States in terms of the signing and ratification of the New START treaty, cooperation on nuclear security, cooperation with regard to Iran sanctions, and nonproliferation generally, the northern distribution network into Afghanistan that supports our effort there, and our discussions with Russia about expanding trade ties and their interest in joining the WTO, as well as Russia's increased cooperation with NATO that was manifested by the NATO-Russia meetings in Lisbon.

So we have a broad agenda with the Russians. The President has a very close working relationship with President Medvedev, so we see this as an important meeting to advance the agenda between our two countries.

Following the bilateral meeting with Russia, he will enter into the G8 meeting. I'll leave it to Mike to work through that set of meetings on the first day.

The second day in Deauville, on the 27th -- Friday, May 27th -- we expect the President to have a bilateral meeting with President Sarkozy of France. We obviously coordinate very closely with France on the full range of issues that are before us, including, of course, our efforts in Afghanistan and Libya. And similarly, there's great interest in coordination with regard to the events in the Middle East and North Africa more generally.

To that end I'll also note -- and Mike can speak at greater length -- that we expect the G8 to continue to discuss the ideas that the President laid out in his speech surrounding international support for Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the support of international institutions for democratic transitions, and the G8 more generally. So we expect that those will be topics in the bilateral meeting with President Sarkozy.

Then there are G8 meetings -- one additional bilateral meeting that we currently have scheduled is one with Prime Minister Kan of Japan. Japan has come through a very difficult period. The United States has provided substantial support for our Japanese ally, both in terms of the provision of certain types of assistance. Our military has helped get assistance to the people of Japan when they were in need following the tsunami. And of course we've provided advice and technical cooperation surrounding the nuclear challenges that they face.

So this will be an opportunity to reaffirm the strength of our Japanese alliance and to hear from Prime Minister Kan about the situation in Japan, but also to discuss Japan's global interests and responsibilities, as well, as they have been a key partner, for instance, in providing assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They, too, have a strong role to play in supporting the type of democratic values that we stand for around the world, as well as coordination around the global economy.

So the three meetings that we currently have scheduled on the margins of the G8 are President Medvedev, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Kan. We'll, of course, let you know if additional meetings are scheduled.

As I mentioned, Mike will go through the G8 schedule, but we leave that evening to go to Poland. Poland is a very important stop for the President for a number of reasons. First of all, Poland is one of our key allies in Eastern and Central Europe, which has been a focal point of the President to strengthen European security during his term in office. And I'm sure Liz will speak to that. We have deep and longstanding ties with the Polish people, rooted in their democracy, rooted in the large Polish American population, as well.

So that night in Poland -- and Liz will probably speak to this -- but we also expect that the two Presidents will host a dinner for the heads of state of Central and Eastern Europe who will be in Poland for a summit at this time.

So just as the President was able to have a dinner with a number of Central and Eastern European leaders when he was in Prague to sign the START treaty, he'll be able to consult broadly with our Central and Eastern European partners at this dinner. So it's an important opportunity to get a lot of business done associated with European security and global issues that we cooperate with our Eastern and Central European allies on.

Then on Saturday, May 28th, the President will have a bilateral meeting in the morning with the President of Poland. This will be an opportunity to discuss the bilateral agenda with the Poles that, again, includes issues related to NATO, European security, economic cooperation, and a host of other issues that we can get into.

We're also going to discuss democracy and, again, the events in the Middle East and North Africa. There is a Polish delegation that recently traveled in the region, traveled to Tunisia. And Lech Walesa, for instance, is one of the members of that delegation. They'll have an opportunity to read out that travel to the two Presidents and -- as well as efforts to support democracy in Belarus, which of course has had a very troubling series of events in the course of the last several months since their election.

The two Presidents will then I think deliver remarks at the conclusion of that event.

Then the President will go into a working lunch and bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Poland. Again, expect a very wide-ranging discussion on issues that we work with the Poles on. And then the two leaders will hold a joint press conference at the conclusion of that meeting. Then we anticipate the President will make a number of cultural stops in -- while he's in Warsaw. We're still working out the precise details of those stops, but we expect him to be able to go to several places in Warsaw that are resonant to Polish history and to the extraordinary sacrifices of the Polish people in terms of -- in pursuit of their own freedom.

So we'll have more information as we nail down those stops, but I'd anticipate the President making up to two or three cultural stops while he's in Warsaw. So we'll keep you posted on that element of the schedule.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Liz.

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So thorough I don't have a lot to add, Ben. Thank you very much.

Hello to all out there. I'll just add a little bit thematically about the arc of the President's commitment to Europe since the beginning of the administration and, indeed, before he became President.

He as a candidate made a strong commitment to revitalizing our alliances, as Ben said, and to repairing America's leadership and moral standing in the world. And this trip very much underscores the extent to which he has achieved that with our closest allies and partners in Europe.

As we look at the themes of the trip there are essentially three. One is to highlight our enduring commitment to Europe because European security and prosperity benefit the United States as much as they do Europe. Europe is our essential partner based on the values we share, and we see that every day as we look at the developments across the broader Middle East; that these values that have undergirded our partnership with Europe and which, indeed, were the values that led to the development of the special relationship as we and the United Kingdom defended democracy against tyranny at the -- in the middle of the 20th century and earlier in the 20th century, are very much the values that others aspire to today. And so it only strengthens and reinforces that bond that we have with Europe as we confront the challenges of the 21st century.

The second theme of this trip is to highlight the vitality of the transatlantic link through the institutions of Europe with which we work every day. The President has invested a great deal in ensuring that NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is modernized and relevant to the challenges of the 21st century.

As you know from the Lisbon Summit commitments last year, there is a whole program in place to ensure that NATO has the capabilities that we need to make Article 5 of the treaty relevant to the threats and to ensure that we are prepared to defend all allies, as he has committed to doing.

And that's part of the message that we take to Central and Eastern Europe, the reassurance message, to those who were once new allies, but as the President has said repeatedly, there are no old or new allies, there are only allies, and each ally needs to be absolutely confident of the commitment that we've made to their defense.

Also in institutional relationships, we have a strong and vital relationship with the European Union. We've never done more business with the European Union than we do today. Across the board we're engaged with them. They've just announced, for example, significant new sanctions on Iran. This is something we've been working on very closely with them. It's true with regard to Syria; it's true with regard to counterterrorism cooperation; it's true with regard to democracy issues in Eastern European; as Ben noted, with respect to Belarus. And just every day the work together with the EU is practical and relevant to the advancement of American interests. So we'll be highlighting that on the trip as well.

And third, and perhaps most important, is the growing cooperation that we have with Europe as a catalyst for global action. There, rooted in the shared values and interests with Europe, we see across the board -- in Afghanistan, on Libya, in response to the transformational events in the Middle East and North Africa -- every day we work together with Europe. And there is no other grouping of countries with which we work as closely to advance the President's global agenda.

So as Ben noted in each of the bilateral meetings, as well as in the G8 meetings that Mike is going to describe, our agenda with Europe is broad and looking outward together in the same direction.

MR. RHODES: Great. Thanks, Liz. We'll go to Mike now for the G8.

MR. FROMAN: Thanks, Ben. Well, this year the G8 meeting, which is hosted by President Sarkozy, will take place in Deauville, in Normandy, on Thursday and Friday of next week. And obviously in addition to France and the U.S., participants will include the U.K., Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, Russian and the European Union.

The G process started in Rambouillet, France actually in 1975. And as it has evolved, the G8 has been a leading forum for international cooperation across a wide of issues: economic, political, security and development. And this year will be very much building on that legacy.

The first day of the G8 there will be a discussion. It will start with a discussion of the situation in Japan, expressing solidarity with the people of Japan, and a discussion of nuclear safety, nuclear power safety more generally. There will be a discussion of the global economy and the situation of the global recovery, of risks to that global recovery, as well as a dialogue around trade and climate change and advancing those agendas.

President Sarkozy has organized a discussion of the various drivers of the economy, including the Internet, green growth innovation, and there will be an opportunity for the leaders to have dialogue with representatives of a conference that will be going on in Paris the day before the G8 of business leaders and others involved in Internet-related issues.

The G8 leaders will talk about a range of political and security issues. Traditionally this has included everything from nonproliferation, North Korea, Iran, terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy. This year there will also be, in a sense, a discussion of the developments in the Middle East and North Africa as well.

And that will lead to the second day, where the leaders will be joined in one session by the prime ministers of Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the head of the World Bank, the U.N. Secretary General, and representatives from the IMF to discuss the Middle East and North Africa.

And this perhaps will be the -- one of the most important outcomes of the G8, which is that we expect there to be a broad embrace of an approach to the Middle East and North Africa that includes many of the elements that the President laid out in his speech yesterday about supporting financial stabilization; modernization and reform of the economies in the region to support private sector growth, entrepreneurship and job creation; and further integration both regionally and with the global economy.

And finally, the G8 summit will end with two sessions in which the G8 leaders will meet with nine leaders from African countries -- Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea-Conakry, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa. And this is continuing a tradition that the G8 has had of having a dialogue with Africa about development issues but also about political and security issues. And that will conclude the G8 after that.

MR. VIETOR: One quick housekeeping thing. By popular demand, I'll just repeat these titles. First speaker is Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications. Our second speaker was Liz Sherwood-Randall, senior director for European affairs and special assistant to the President. And third was Mike Froman, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs. And with that we'll take your questions.

Q Thank you very much for taking the time to do the call, and thank you for your service. My question is about Poland. As you know, the number one agenda item on the Polish side is their request to join the State Department visa waiver program. During the Polish President's visit to Washington in December, President Obama promised to make this a priority and solve this issue "before very long." I'm wondering if you can tell us what progress can the President report on the drive to admit Poland to the visa waiver program, and what has the administration done since December to achieve this goal? Thank you.

MR. RHODES: Thanks. Thanks very much, Josh, for that question. I do think that this is a lead agenda item between the two countries. As you said, the President had this discussion several months ago with his Polish counterpart, committed to do more work on this. Since then, we have been working this very hard and have made progress on a number of fronts as it relates to the core issue, the visa waiver program, and additional issues associated with the Polish people and their ability to work and study and visit here.

We've been in conversations within the administration about this for some time. And like I said, we believe we've made some progress and we'll have more to say, I think about this, when we're in Poland. The President will be able to specifically -- the steps that we've taken and the roadmap that we see. We're following through on our commitment to be responsive to Polish concerns.

So I don't have particular announcements today, but we have been working and we do feel like we've moved the ball forward, and we'll discuss this further while we're in Poland. There are, of course, very important issues associated with the visa waiver program that have to be looked at carefully. So it's not a simple matter. But we certainly expect it to be an agenda item in the President's meetings in Warsaw and we'll be able to update the Poles on the steps that we've taken to date around this issue.

Q Okay. And the President said, "My expectation is that this problem will be solved during my presidency." Did he mean by the end of 2012 or the end of 2016?

MR. RHODES: Josh, I'll say this again. He's working to follow through on that precise commitment that you referenced, and we'll be discussing this in Warsaw and have more to say there. But, again, we -- the President does intend to follow through on his commitment to work this issue to a resolution.

Q Hi. Thanks very much. A question on Libya. Can I check the administration's position on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973? The part about -- the wording of "all necessary measures," do you think that that allows the arming of the Libyan rebels? And if so, how and when should that happen? And if not, then generally how can the goal of removing Qaddafi from power be speeded up?

MR. RHODES: Thanks for the question. I'd just say a number of things. First of all, the United States pushed very hard for a resolution that framed the effort of civilian protection in Libya around "all necessary measures". Specifically, as we've said, we believe that the force sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution is focused on the civilian protection mission, and that ranges from a number of steps to include the no-fly zone, but also, of course, to include striking targets on the ground that endanger Libyan civilians.

And NATO and our coalition partners have carried out that mission very effectively over the course of the last several weeks and have stopped the advances of Qaddafi's forces, and in some instances they've been reversed through NATO and coalition actions and through the actions of the Libyan opposition.

With regard to your -- the second part of your question about arming the opposition, we believe that different nations are going to make different judgments about their own relationship with the Libyan opposition, separate and apart from the United Nations Security Council resolution. The United States, for instance, has provided non-lethal assistance to the Libyan opposition. We've deepened our ties with the Transitional National Council, including through meetings here at the White House with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon several days ago, several meetings that Hillary Clinton has had with the Council, and having an envoy, Chris Stevens, who's in Benghazi.

Other nations will make other decisions about the type of assistance that they will provide. Some could go further than the United States in terms of arms. But again, we believe that these are national decisions to be made within the context of our efforts to protect Libyan civilians and support the opposition.

Now, with regard to Qaddafi, I think the President spoke to this yesterday. We believe that time is now working against Qaddafi. His advance was stopped. His forces have been significantly degraded. He is cut off from access to arms and cash from the first U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, as well as 1973. And you see a number of Libyan regime officials, for instance, looking for a way out as well.

So at the same time that Qaddafi is being pressured and squeezed by the international community, the Libyan opposition has time and space to organize itself, to obtain more resources, and to become a more effective body. And I think that's been borne out in events on the ground in recent days as, again, you've seen Qaddafi under greater pressure, having lost control of different portions of his country.

So as the President said yesterday, we believe that he has -- he will not benefit from the passage of time but rather, the day in which he inevitably leaves will become more likely as time goes on.

So that's our broad position, and Libya, we expect, will be an important topic of discussion throughout our stops in Europe.

Q Do you expect to hear demands or requests, rather, from Sarkozy and from David Cameron for the U.S. to do more, either in a background role or in a frontline role?

MR. RHODES: Go ahead, Liz.

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL: The President and David Cameron have an ongoing conversation about ensuring enforcement of the U.N. Security Council resolution, and we work together both bilaterally and in NATO to make the most of the capabilities that have been committed to the operation. And they have a very, very effective relationship. I'm confident they'll talk about it in their meeting, and we're working to do, as Ben said, to make the most of this time to show Qaddafi that time is not on his side.

Q Thanks very much. My question is about the IMF. To what extent do you think the discussion about a successor to Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be brought up at the G8 and in the other meetings that the President will be having? And can you articulate what criteria the United States would like to see used in choosing that successor?

MR. RHODES: I'll pass this to Mike. I will just note, for the benefit of the group, that I myself was deeply impressed by the knowledge that Mike dropped on the origin of the G grouping. So he's a G buff himself, but I think he can talk to the IMF as well. (Laughter.)

MR. FROMAN: Thank you, Jeff, from Reuters. Well, look, the IMF may very well come up in conversations during the trip. And as Secretary Geithner expressed yesterday, our view is that the IMF has an experienced leadership team in place right now during this critical time for the global economy to help manage the smooth transition. And with regard to a new head, we want to see an open process that leads to a prompt succession for the fund's new managing director. And that -- I imagine that will be a subject of discussion among some of the leaders.

Q Good morning. My question is about Ireland. Does the President -- does he still have -- you said he has family there? Is he going to meet cousins or family? And the other point of the G8 agenda, it sounds like a mini-G20. Do you think it's eventually useful to have that meeting?

MR. RHODES: Hey, thanks for the question. I'll take the first part, and then I'll hand it over to Mike, I think, on the G8.

The President, researching his background, was able to trace his mother's side of the family back to Ireland, and specifically to Moneygall. I believe that it is -- we could confirm this -- but I believe it's a great-great-grandfather -- three greats.

So he has roots in Ireland and in Moneygall. Moneygall is a town of under 300 people in Ireland. It's -- I've seen reports about the bloodlines that extend across the town and people who may be related to the President. So it's certainly quite likely that in a town of that size that is so deeply rooted in that part of Ireland that there are people who share those ties. I couldn't say with certainty who -- the nature of those relations, but we certainly expect it to be a robust topic of discussion with the residents of Moneygall when the President is able to stop by and pay a visit.

I'll give it to Mike on the G8 question.

MR. FROMAN: On the G question, I think the G8 and the G20 play distinct roles. The G20, obviously, with the larger membership and the presence of the major emerging economies, is the premier forum for international economic cooperation and is the forum through which we deal with a number of the key issues around rebalancing financial regulation, et cetera.

The G8 will focus largely on political security and development issues. And to the degree that it talks about the global economy, it's in the context of what's going on in Europe currently and the United States currently, as well as Japan, and it's just an opportunity for those leaders to share views on the current state of the global recovery.

Q And if I may follow up on this, do you consider you have the same vision as Europe towards rebalancing towards China?

MR. FROMAN: I think there's a broad consensus within the G20 on the importance of global rebalancing, including encouraging more domestic demand in the major surplus countries of -- in the major surplus countries and increasing savings in the major deficit countries. So I think we're all on the same page on that question.

Q Thank you. My question is about the intensity or the depth of discussions between the President and Prime Minister Cameron regarding the pre-'67 borders and the land swap.

MR. RHODES: Sure. We consult on a very regular basis with Prime Minister Cameron on issues associated with Middle East peace. Most of the conversations they have I think it comes up. And so we've been coordinating with them through the Quartet and on a bilateral basis over the course of the last several months. So I certainly expect that President Obama will have an opportunity to discuss Middle East peace, to discuss his statements yesterday that the basis and foundation for successful negotiations should begin with territorial security to include the 1967 borders plus swaps as a basis on territory, and to include affirmation and assurances related to Israel's security.

So, having stated that as a U.S. position yesterday, we do believe that he will discuss the issue. However, he'll do it in a broader context of a range of issues. I know they want to discuss the democratic movement in the Middle East and North Africa. They want to discuss Syria, Libya, Egypt. So I think, as it was in the President's speech, I think it will be one of many issues that comes up in their discussions on the region.

But we believe it's important that the international community, through the Quartet and through the U.S.-U.K. relationship, does what it can to advance progress in pursuit of peace, and so we believe that alignment between the U.S. and the U.K., and the U.S. and our Quartet partners, continues to be important going forward. So the President will have an opportunity to pursue that.

Q Thanks. Ben, you talked about the London speech being sort of the anchor of the trip, so can you say a little bit more about the Dublin public speech? Is that going to be sort of more -- maybe more personal, or is it very Irish -- Irish-centric?

MR. RHODES: Yes, Scott, it's a good question. The Dublin remarks I think will be very Irish-focused. And I think it's a chance to talk about the relationship between our two countries. It's also a chance to talk about the enormous affinity, frankly, that the American people have for Ireland that's rooted in part in the huge population of Irish-Americans here. And it's a chance for the President to really celebrate the ties between our countries and the kind of unique feelings that the American people have for Ireland, and hopefully that the Irish people have had with the United States for many years.

So, again, I think that is a very -- a speech very much focused on Ireland and the United States and Ireland and the ties between our peoples, rather than, for instance, a statement of -- extended statement on policy.

Then, in the U.K., I think that there the President is going to take on a broader set of themes. That will include the U.S./U.K. special relationship. It will also include the importance of the transatlantic alliance in 2011. And I think it's important for the President to underscore that the alliance between the United States and the U.K. and the alliance between the U.S. and Europe is as important as it's ever been. We see that because of the breadth of issues that we cooperate on, whether, again, it's Afghanistan or Libya or the G20 or nuclear issues, for instance.

But we also see it in the fact that we are bound by a set of values. And the President spoke at length about those values yesterday -- democracy, individual rights, self-determination -- so that at a time when we see people reaching for those values around the world, it reaffirms the importance of having the U.S. and Europe consistently speaking up for those rights, taking policy steps to support the advancement of those rights and, again, leading not just based upon a set of narrow interests of nations but leading on behalf of a set of rights that we believe should be claimed by all people.

So I think he'll be able to hit on those themes in his speech, just as he'll be able to discuss the substantive issues that we're working on with the United Kingdom and our European allies.

MR. RHODES: Thanks, everybody, for joining the call and we look forward to speaking more on the trip. I know, as I said, there will be at least, in addition to the couple of sets of public remarks, a couple of press conferences, and we'll keep you updated on any additions to the schedule, as well as the three bilateral meetings in the G8 printout.

So thanks, everyone, and we'll see you on the trip.

END 10:20 A.M. EDT

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 20, 2011 12:50 PM.

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