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Obama makes foreign leaders wait


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It's better for him to get All of his people, and advisors in place first, and get fully up to date first before jumping on in.


He will soon be one of the World Leaders, and he is playing his cards right in this respect.


On the National front though? That remains to be seen, but he will have to move fast on that one.

The markets don't take well to uncertainty.


For the record; For what it's worth? From this Republican, YOU ARE in my prayers President Elect Obama.


Because the pressure you are under right now IS intense, and probably wont be slowing down for you for at least a year.





By Peter Baker

Published: November 12, 2008


The world is waiting for President-elect Barack Obama, and some of its most prominent leaders are flying into the United States this weekend clamoring to meet with him. But they will have to keep on waiting.


The leaders of 19 foreign powers, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, converge on Washington on Friday for an emergency economic summit meeting hosted by President George W. Bush. Although invited, Obama has opted to stay in Chicago and will not meet any of the leaders separately.


Coming so soon after last week's election, the summit meeting has proved an uncomfortable moment for the president-elect and an early test of his handling of international diplomacy. Even as aides are closing his campaign headquarters and just beginning to assemble a governing team, they are fending off interest from foreign governments eager to take the measure of Obama and trying to avoid tying him to the Bush administration.


Several Obama advisers, in separate interviews, all used the word "awkward" to describe the situation. But Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to Obama, said: "While some may say it's awkward that he's not there, it would be far more problematic to be there. We firmly believe there is only one president at a time."


The situation has already fostered misunderstandings. A Kremlin official told reporters in Moscow that President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia would probably meet with Obama during his trip to the United States this weekend, even though the Obama camp has ruled that out.


The potential for even more significant misunderstanding was underscored last weekend when a quick, seemingly perfunctory telephone call by Obama returning the congratulatory call of the Polish president led to a dispute about what was said about missile defense. If confusion over such a delicate issue could arise from a roughly five-minute phone call, Obama advisers reasoned, then the prospect of longer encounters in person with foreign leaders at this point would be fraught with peril. He has not even designated a secretary of state, Treasury secretary or national security adviser.


Instead, the Obama team is scrambling to arrange for surrogates to meet with visiting foreign officials while emphasizing that Bush remains the nation's leader until Jan. 20. "It's not appropriate for two people to show up for this meeting," said John Podesta, co-chairman of Obama's transition team.

The White House expressed no disappointment and vowed to work closely with the president-elect. "We continue to work with the transition team on the financial summit and will keep them up to date," said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman.


Foreign affairs veterans said Obama was trying to play it safe and avoid being forced to take positions on matters he is not yet authorized to decide, much less take ownership for the problems and decisions of Bush.


"I sort of understand why he can't go to that meeting," said Representative Howard Berman, a Democrat from California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "What if the administration makes a suggestion that he doesn't agree with? Should he pop up and say something? Is his silence acquiescence? I think he's making the right call."


Stephen Krasner, a former policy planning director at the State Department under Bush, said Obama should not assume a role he does not formally have yet. "It may appear to be awkward," he said, "but the key thing is it's a government that operates by law, and Obama has no authority until he's inaugurated."


The period between an election and inauguration has often fostered tension and uncertainty when it comes to foreign affairs. Lyndon Johnson wanted his successor to support peace talks with North Vietnam and arms talks with the Soviet Union, but Richard Nixon undercut those efforts. The first President Bush sent troops to Somalia after his re-election defeat but before Bill Clinton's inauguration.

The protocol for making first contacts with foreign leaders can be complicated and delicate. New presidents have traditionally made the Canadian prime minister the first foreign leader they meet with after taking office, a nod to its singular status as the nation's neighbor and trading partner.

In January 1993, Clinton met with the Mexican president in Texas as president-elect, setting off protests from Canada. He responded by promising to make their prime minister his first foreign visitor after he took office.


Similarly, the Canadians were upset when the current President Bush took office in 2001 and promptly scheduled a trip to Mexico. Bush rectified the situation by bringing the Canadian prime minister to Washington for a hurriedly arranged meeting before the departure for Mexico.


Obama called for "a globally coordinated effort with our partners in the G-20" during a campaign stop in Miami in September. But some of his advisers said the timing of the gathering this week was not their choice and wished there were a graceful way to call it off or at least postpone it.

Obama advisers said it would be impractical to set up separate meetings with any foreign leaders on the sidelines of the summit meeting, if only because it would be hard to meet with a few and not all 19 visitors.


Peter Feaver, a former strategic adviser to Bush at the National Security Council, said meeting foreign visitors should be a low priority at this point. To organize and set up a social meeting like that "just consumes staff time and energy that could be devoted to transition planning and 100-day planning and staff and so forth," he said. "And the payoff would be fairly low."

Reporting was contributed by Jeff Zeleny from Washington, Clifford J. Levy from Moscow, Nicholas Kulish from Berlin and Steven Erlanger from Paris.

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