Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama calls world leaders

CHICAGO - BARACK Obama discussed the financial crisis and other problems with top world leaders ahead of his first public comments on Friday since his election triumph.

After making the first key appointment to his administration, Mr Obama spoke by telephone with the leaders of Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico and South Korea, hastening the shift in political gravity away from President George W. Bush.

The financial crisis, the Afghanistan war, climate change and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear crises dominated the talks, according to accounts from the various capitals.

Mr Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak agreed to work together to tackle North Korea's nuclear disarmament and the financial turmoil, said Lee's spokesman in Seoul.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that he and Mr Obama discussed 'our resolve to act together on dealing on the global financial crisis and also working closely together on the great challenge of climate change'.

Mr Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to work 'closely' on Iran's disputed nuclear programme, Afghanistan, climate change and the financial crisis, her government said.

Reforming the financial system also featured strongly in Mr Obama's talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Gordona Brown of Britain and a 10-minute telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, their spokesmen said.

Mr Aso also raised Afghanistan, climate change and North Korea, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon and the US president-elect discussed immigration and drug smuggling on the restive southern border, the Mexican foreign ministry.

Most of the world leaders will attend the emergency summit on the economic crisis in Washington on November 15, but Obama has not yet announced whether he will take a role in the event.

Mr Obama was to convene his economic advisers on Friday before his first press conference (3.30am Singapore time, Friday) since his triumph in Tuesday's election against Republican John McCain.

Several names mentioned as potential Treasury overseers to command a US$700-billion (S$1 trillion) bank bailout were to attend the meeting, including former treasury secretary Larry Summers, ex-Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker and Laura Tyson, chairwoman of the National Economic Council under President Bill Clinton.

Ahead of a White House meeting with Mr Bush on Monday, Mr Obama appointed Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, the first senior official to join the next administration.

Mr Emanuel, 48, is a veteran of Clinton's White House credited with masterminding the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in 2006.

He has a reputation for being a bare-knuckles operative and a fierce Democratic partisan who has the nickname of 'Rahmbo'. The appointment stirred the first post-election attacks from the demoralised Republican Party.

'This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center,' said John Boehner, the Republican minority leader in the House.

Mr Bush said he had directed 'unprecedented' cooperation between the White House and Mr Obama before the Democrat is inaugurated on January 20, in the first presidential handover since the September 11 attacks of 2001.

'In the coming weeks, we will ask administration officials to brief the Obama team on ongoing policy issues ranging from the financial markets to the war in Iraq,' Mr Bush said at the White House.

Mr Obama said in a statement that he looked forward to meeting Mr Bush, whom he lambasted on an almost hourly basis on the campaign trail.

'I thank him for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship that will be required to meet the many challenges we face as a nation,' he said.

Aside from the listing US economy, one of Mr Obama's most urgent priorities will be to wind down Mr Bush's war in Iraq and redirect the military focus to hunting down Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The president-elect, who has spent the past two days catching up with his young family and thanking his campaign staff in Chicago, is already receiving classified CIA intelligence as he prepares to take over.

Mr Obama received his first national security briefing from Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, at the FBI building in Chicago on Thursday. -- AFP

No comments: