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Obama's first day in London: Meetings, parties and iPods

LONDON - He talked nuclear threats with Russia's presidentand gave an iPod to the queen.

And that was only the beginning. It was an eventful first day onthe world stage for President Barack Obama, launching new armscontrol talks, placing China ties on fresh footing and calmingfears about the ailing U.S. economy -- seemingly everywhere, relaxedand smiling all the while.

While wife Michelle attracted breathless attention with everystop, fashionable outfit and sip of tea.

- See photos of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in Europe

The new U.S. president, in London for Thursday's high-stakesglobal summit on the financial meltdown, seemed to be everywhere onWednesday.

School children ran alongside his nearly 20-vehicle motorcade.

He was asked to give a pep talk to England's soccer team for itsWorld Cup qualifying match (he politely declined) and to offercampaign tips to embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown("good policy is good politics," he said).

There was even a chance to talk dinosaurs with Brown's youngsons -- and to snare two hours of quality time with Queen ElizabethII at Buckingham Palace.

"Michelle has been really thinking that through," Obama said,presumably referring to the daunting clothes dilemma posed by anaudience with royalty. Mrs. Obama chose a black skirt and sweaterover a white top and a double strand of large pearls.

Before that meeting at the palace: diplomacy of a differentsort.

Brown, his dour demeanor one factor in his shaky politicalstanding, said effusively that Obama had provided "renewed hope"all around the world. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whosenation has often assailed the U.S., offered his own praise, albeitmore measured. His first meeting with Obama, he said, left him"far more optimistic" about Washington-Moscow relations.

Undeterred by a bad cold, Obama held a whirlwind of one-on-onetalks with those and other leaders, including Chinese President HuJintao. He aimed not just to lay the groundwork for Thursday'ssummit of the 20 largest wealthy and developing economies but alsomore broadly to initiate a new era in American foreign relations.

His first task was a little repair job.

British feelings were hurt by what was perceived as a bit of acold shoulder from Obama toward Brown when the British leadervisited Washington last month. So when Obama and Brown appearedtogether before American and British reporters, Obama bent overbackward to show his affection for both host and host country. Thelengthy round of questions made up for the slight of no newsconference in Washington, and Obama took special care to note thatthe talks with Brown were his first official stop on his firstoverseas trip.

"The United States and the United Kingdom have stood togetherthrough thick and thin, through war and peace, through hard timesand prosperity, and we've always emerged stronger by standingtogether," Obama said next to a beaming Brown.

Nevertheless, Obama hedged his bets by also sitting down -- infull view of the cameras -- with Brown's main rival, David Cameron,the leader of Britain's Conservative Party.

Obama's talks with Medvedev were their first in person. Bothsides sought to portray them as a major development for arelationship that has been severely hobbled in recent years byever-sharpening disputes over the U.S.-led Iraq invasion, a Bushadministration proposal to build a new missile defense system inEastern Europe, enlargement of NATO into what Moscow considers itssphere of influence, and Russia's devastating war last year withits neighbor and former Soviet republic Georgia.

"We believe that the time has come to reset our relations, asit was said, and to open a new page," Medvedev declared at Obama'sside.

The leaders announced new arms control talks aimed at reaching adeal to slash both nations' stockpiles of nuclear warheads.

Obama also announced he would visit Moscow in July. The leadersmade clear they want the broad outline of a deal by then to giveenough time for legislative approval.

The U.S. president cast the effort as important on its own,calling nuclear weapons that could find their way into terrorists'hands "the gravest threat to humanity." He also said thatproducing a tangible agreement is a "good place to start" insetting the stage for cooperation on thornier areas such as Iran,North Korea, and Afghanistan.

Obama's meeting with Hu brought yet another announcement offoreign travel. The White House said the president would go toChina in the second half of the year.

The leaders announced a new mechanism for U.S.-China dialoguethat is intended to broaden discussion and give it fresh weight.They also shared concerns about North Korea's stated plans for arocket launch suspected to be a cover for a missile test.

On a lighter note, Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II an engravediPod during his visit to Buckingham Palace. The portable musicdevice came with headphones and already loaded with songs. Thepresident and first lady also gave the queen a rare book of songssigned by "The King and I" composer Richard Rodgers.

As the Americans arrived at the palace, a few thousandwellwishers cheered and waved as their limousine went past.

In central London's financial district, by contrast, thousandsof protesters rallied against the economic summit.

Who's to blame for the global crisis? Obama acknowledged U.S.mistakes but also defended America's leadership and its economicmodel against predictions of decline.

"I think if you pulled quotes from 10 years ago, 20 years ago,30 years ago, from previous news reports, you might find similarcontentions that America was on decline," Obama said. "Andsomehow it hasn't worked out that way."

- See photos of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in Europe

- See photos of the protests

- See photos of the spouses of world leaders


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