Obama Hosts Cameron at Lavish White House Dinner

Posted March 15th, 2012 at 3:45 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirmed the “special relationship” between their countries with a glittering state dinner Wednesday night at the White House.

More than 300 guests looked on as the two leaders praised their personal and diplomatic relationship in a separate toasts. Mr. Obama, quoting the late Winston Churchill, spoke of the “great purpose and design of our alliance,” while the British leader saluted the American president as “an ally, a partner and a friend.”

“It was December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor had finally thrust America into war, alongside our British friends. These were the words Sir Winston spoke to his new American partners — I will say that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants. So I'd like to propose a toast: to Her Majesty the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee, to our dear friends David and Samantha, to the great purpose and design of our alliance, may we remain, now and always, His faithful servants. Cheers everyone.”

“Barack, it is an honor to call you an ally, a partner and a friend. You don't get to choose the circumstances you have to deal with as a president or a prime minister. And, you don't get to choose the leaders that you have to work with, but all I can say is that it is a pleasure to work with someone with moral strength, with clear reason and with fundamental decency in this task of renewing our great national alliance for today and for generations to come. And, with that, I propose a toast, to the president, to the first lady, and to the people of the United States of America…cheers!”

Among the guests were Oscar-winning U.S. film star George Clooney, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, the world's top-ranked golfer, plus British actor Hugh Bonneville and American actor Elizabeth McGovern, the stars of a popular British drama that has been well-received on U.S. public television.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron discussed the situation in Afghanistan, where tensions have increased after a U.S. soldier allegedly killed 16 people in a recent shooting spree.

The president says the “tragic events” of recent days in Afghanistan are a reminder that the mission remains difficult, but that U.S. and NATO forces have made key gains.

“What's undeniable though, and what we can never forget, is that our forces are making very real progress dismantling al-Qaida, breaking the Taliban's momentum and training Afghan forces so that they can take the lead and our troops can come home.”

Mr. Obama says the timeframe for withdrawing U.S. troops remains.

“In terms of pace, I don't anticipate at this stage that we're going to be making any sudden, additional changes to the plan that we currently have.”

That plan would see U.S. and NATO turn over full responsibility for security to Afghan forces in 2014. Mr. Cameron said he also remains optimistic, and that Afghanistan is less of a threat now than before.

“If you compare where we are today with where we've been two, three years ago, the situation is considerably improved.”

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday found U.S. support for the war appears to be waning. Forty percent of Americans told the online poll the recent shooting spree weakened their commitment to the war. Sixty-one percent said the remaining U.S. troops should be brought home immediately.

The two leaders also discussed the deadly government crackdown in Syria, warning President Bashar al-Assad that his days in power were numbered, and that those responsible for the violence would be held accountable.

They also took aim at Iran, saying time is running out for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue. Mr. Obama insisted the U.S. strategy is aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and not on containing a nuclear Iran.

Mr. Cameron and his wife will end their three-day visit to the U.S. with a trip to New York City on Thursday. They will visit the World Trade Center and the memorial to victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, and visit with students at New York University.




President Obama: “We stand together and we work together and we bleed together and we build together, in good times and in bad, because when we do, our nations are more secure, our people are more prosperous. The world is a safer and better and more just place. Our alliance is essential. It is indispensable to the security and prosperity that we seek, not only for our own citizens, but for people around the world.”

Prime Minister Cameron: “The partnership between our countries, between our peoples, is the most powerful partnership for progress that the world has ever seen. That is why whenever an American president and a British prime minister get together, there is a serious and important agenda to work through. And today is no different. Afghanistan, Iran, the Arab Spring, the need for trade, for growth, for jobs in the world economy, the biggest issues in the world — that is our agenda today.”