Obama, Merkel Discuss Libya, Economy, Mideast Peace

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been clear that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must step down and hand power to the Libyan people.

Speaking alongside Ms. Merkel at the White House Tuesday, President Obama said the international pressure will only continue to increase until he does.

The president spoke after he and Ms. Merkel held talks on a range of issues, including economic policy, Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process and the conflict in Libya.

Germany has not supported NATO operations in Libya, but President Obama said Germany's deployment of additional resources and personnel to Afghanistan, has allowed other NATO allies to increase their support for the mission.

President Obama said he and the chancellor also discussed their support for political and economic reform across the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. He said they agreed this historic moment “must not be squandered.”

President Obama is honoring Ms. Merkel with all the pomp and ceremony of an official visit, including an elaborate White House arrival ceremony. But the more serious issues, especially those that have divided the two nations in recent months, are likely to draw the most attention.

Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel also discussed the global economy and the Eurozone debt crisis.

Speaking at the arrival ceremony, President Obama called Chancellor Merkel one of his “closest global partners.” Ms. Merkel said the United States and Germany share the same values, which she said are “democracy and freedom, rule of law, and the universality of human rights.”

She highlighted several areas of mutual interest and cooperation, including achieving a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, keeping Iran from developing a nuclear forces capability, weathering the global economic crisis, and supporting what she described as the “struggle for freedom” in North Africa.

The visit by Germany's first female chancellor comes as her nation struggles with an outbreak of E.-coli bacteria that has killed at least 22 people and sickened 2,200 others.

Also attending Tuesday's ceremony were U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill.

Mr. Obama will treat Ms. Merkel to a formal Rose Garden dinner and present her with the U.S. Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.

On Monday, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel dined at an elegant restaurant in Washington's historic Georgetown neighborhood.