Barack Obama: Our bond with UK is essential

PRESIDENT Barack Obama has described the special relationship between the UK and the United States as "essential" as he prepares for a series of talks with Prime Minister David Cameron.

On just the third state visit by a US president, Mr Obama sought to emphasise that he sees Britain as his country's leading ally, despite suspicions that he prefers a cooler relationship.

However, it also comes as Mr Obama seeks to press Mr Cameron and other EU leaders on his European tour to play a more active role in conflicts.

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The visit comes at a time of close co-operation between Britain and the Americans on Libya, Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and the Middle East peace process. But it is clear the US wants to take less of a leadership role and see allies taking charge of policing some of the world's troublespots.

Despite potential for some disagreement, the words of the president were also echoed by an article jointly written by him and Mr Cameron for a London newspaper.

The two wrote: "Ours is not just a special relationship, it is an essential relationship - for us and for the world."

After meeting the Queen and Prince Philip yesterday, today's meeting will be devoted to politics, with talks between the leaders at Downing Street.

This will be followed by an address to both Houses of Parliament, in which Mr Obama is expected to say the US has no closer ally in the world than Britain.

The two leaders are also expected to attend a barbecue for families of military personnel.