- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

LONDON (AP) - After dropping in at the palace and dining late at 10 Downing St., President Barack Obama on Thursday launched into economic summitry and more first-time meetings with key U.S. allies.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown greeted Obama at London’s ExCel conference center ahead of a breakfast meeting Thursday. The G-20 summit brings together the world’s major economies, where leaders hope to approve language vowing tough, coordinated rules for financial markets, plus efforts to spark global recovery, while avoiding costly trade disputes.

Making his first splash abroad as president, Obama says the summit will reflect “enormous consensus” on how to grapple with the world’s gravest economic crisis since World War II.

Ahead of the Thursday session, the president was sitting down for the first time with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Myung-bak, amid intelligence reports that North Korea is poised to launch an advanced missile. Pyongyang says it’s a satellite launch, but Washington suspects a test of nuclear-capable technology and calls any launch “provocative.”

Obama also has meetings scheduled with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. He will likely reassure Singh about plans to boost aid to India’s rival, Pakistan. With the Saudi leader, oil prices and Mideast peace efforts are on the agenda, with perhaps a delicate question about the king’s recent shake-up in succession plans.

On Wednesday, Obama had his introduction to British royalty with an audience at Buckingham Palace. He and his wife, Michelle, were presented to Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Most noteworthy about the meeting may have been a gift Obama gave the queen: an iPod loaded with classic show tunes, including several from “Camelot,” which was based on the King Arthur legend, and “My Fair Lady,” which was set in London.

Afterward, the queen posed with all the G-20 leaders for a summit class picture. Then each drove in a separate motorcade to 10 Downing St., Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official residence.

Dinner was served up by “Naked Chef” cookbook author Jamie Oliver: Welsh lamb and seasonal vegetables with Irish soda bread on the side. Obama was glimpsed briefly at a table chatting with Germany’s Angela Merkel and South Korea’s Lee.

His meetings Wednesday included Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, with whom Obama agreed to seek a new treaty slashing nuclear stockpiles, and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Obama plans to visit Moscow in July and China later in the year.

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