Obama Meets With Queen Of England

President Obama and the first lady will be sleeping in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday as guests of the Queen of England. The president's stop in London forms part of his visit to Europe ahead of the G-8 summit in France.

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The president and the first lady began a state visit to Britain today, enjoying a royal welcome as guests of the queen. While in London, Mr. Obama is trying to reassure the British that the U.S. still values their friendship. At the same time, he's also asking Britain and other European countries to carry more of the load in international conflicts.

NPR's Scott Horsley is travelling with the president and he sent this report.

SCOTT HORSLEY: The president and first lady will spend tonight in Buckingham Palace, in the same suite where the young royals, William and Katherine, spent their wedding night just last month. The Obamas missed the royal wedding, but they met the young couple today. And the British gift for pageantry was still very much on display, during this first state visit by an American president in nearly eight years.

(Soundbite of bagpipe music)

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama was welcomed with 41-gun salute in the garden of the palace, echoed by 62 more from the Tower of London. After what was billed as an informal lunch, for 50 or 60, the president toured the queen's portrait gallery, where historic artifacts are also on display. He lingered over the personal diary kept by King George III, before and after the U.S. Revolution.

America is lost, the king wrote back around 1783, before going on to wonder about the possibility of trade with his former colonies and the importance of a future friendship and connection.

Heather Conley, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that connection is at the heart of this two-day presidential visit.

Ms. HEATHER CONLEY (Europe Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies): I think the focus for the visit of the U.K. is really to put the special back into the U.S.-U.K. special relationship.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama went further in an op-ed column published today in the Times of London. Along with British Prime Minister David Cameron, he wrote the relationship between the two countries is not only special but essential.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says Mr. Obama will highlight that relationship with Britain and more broadly with Europe, when he speaks to a joint session of Parliament tomorrow and again at the G-8 Summit in France later this week.

Mr. BEN RHODES (Deputy Advisor, National Security): We recognize that we live in a new world. What the president will reaffirm, though, is that the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, and the broader trans-Atlantic alliance is the cornerstone of global security and the extension of the democratic values that we share.

HORSLEY: That's a two-sided message. On the one hand, it's a bow to Europe's continued status in the world, despite the rise of new powers like China. But it also comes with a not-so-subtle demand, that Europe share more of the responsibility and the cost of acting as global banker and policeman.

That's not easy at a time when much of Europe is wrestling with its own financial troubles. Before addressing the challenge of this new century, Mr. Obama paused today to remember the shared sacrifice of the last one.

(Soundbite of choir)

HORSLEY: While visiting Westminster Abbey, the president laid a wreath at Britain's Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It's the resting place for an anonymous soldier from the First World War. But it's also come to represent the country's contribution to later battles, from D-Day to Afghanistan.

Throughout this European trip, Mr. Obama has been forced to keep one eye focused back home. He's spoken twice with Missouri's governor about the deadly tornado in Joplin on Sunday. Today, he promised the federal government will continue to assist the storm victims, after the news cameras have gone.

President BARACK OBAMA: I know that a lot of people are wondering how they'll get through the coming days or months or even years. But I want everybody in Joplin, everybody in Missouri, everybody in Minnesota, everybody across the Midwest to know that we are here for you.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama plans to visit Joplin on Sunday, one day after his return from Europe.

Scott Horsley, NPR news, London.

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