Obama, Merkel to Discuss Differences over Libya, Economy

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington, where the two leaders are set to discuss economic policy and the conflict in Libya.

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.

The two leaders are set to discuss NATO operations in Libya, a mission Germany has not supported. Officials say Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel also are likely to touch on the global economy, the Eurozone debt crisis, the Middle East peace process and Afghanistan.

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.