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Obama concludes European tour

Latest update : 2008-07-26

US Presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a press conference outside 10 Downing Street in London, the last leg of his week-long European tour, amidst concerns that his absence from the US would hurt his poll figures.

White House hopeful Barack Obama denied Saturday his adulation-soaked foreign tour amounted to a premature victory lap, but admitted it could see him take a short term dip in opinion polls back home.

The Democratic candidate wrapped up his Europe and Middle East swing with talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, before setting course for the United States, and the intense crossfire of the campaign trail.

"I am not sure that there is going to be some immediate political impact," Obama said in a solo press conference outside 10 Downing Street, Brown's official residence.

"I wouldn't even be surprised if that in some polls you saw a little bit of a dip as a consequence.

"We've been out of the country for a week. People are worried about gas prices, they're worried about home foreclosures," he explained.

Obama sailed through the biggest tests of his trip, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, apparently gaffe-free, and captured an unprecedented photo-op for a presidential candidate before a staggering 200,000 people in Berlin.

Republicans however branded his tour, also including Kuwait, France and Jordan as a shallow political stunt.

Opinion polls back home meanwhile suggested that if anything, the race narrowed between Obama and Republican rival John McCain during his nine-day absence.

McCain, who has struggled to get media coverage in the United States during Obama's trip, delivered his own sarcastic verdict on Obama's travels in his weekly radio address to Americans on Saturday.

"This week the presidential contest was a long-distance affair, with my opponent touring various continents and arriving yesterday in Paris," he said.

"With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to 'the people of the world' I'm starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too."

On Thursday, McCain's spokesman Tucker Bounds derided Obama's trip as a "premature victory lap."

But the Illinois Senator attempted to turn the tables on his rival after meeting Brown.

"It is hard for me to understand Senator McCain’s argument, he was telling me I was supposed to take this trip," he said, referring to the McCain camp's apparent desire to see Obama make a damaging gaffe while overseas.

"He suggested it and thought it was a good idea, although I have to admit we had it planned before he made the suggestion."

Obama also said McCain had been in every country he had visited since securing the Republican nomination and had also given speeches in Canada, Columbia and Mexico.

Earlier, Obama and Brown sat on wicker chairs on the back patio of Number Ten, and chatted, one-on-one, before strolling together, watched by armed security teams on the adjacent Horse Guards Parade.

Obama said the talks ranged through a string of foreign policy challenges, including Iran's nuclear drive and his desire to refocus US military policy on rising violence in Afghanistan.

He declined a request by the press to offer Brown some political advice, after the premier slumped to an embarrassing by-election defeat in his native Scotland this week.

"I will tell you that you are always more popular before you are actually in charge of things," Obama said.

"And then, you know, once you are responsible then you are going to make some people unhappy, and that is just the nature of politics."

Latest opinion polls in the United States show McCain chipping away at Obama's national lead, which stands at between one and six points, and closing in some key battlegrounds.

A Gallup poll found Obama leading McCain 47-41 percent, a four-point gain by the Republican hopeful from earlier in the week.

Obama also met Brown's predecessor Tony Blair, now the international community's Middle East envoy, and opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron and was due to fly home to Chicago later Saturday.

Compared to Berlin, where he addressed an estimated 200,000-strong crowd to rapturous cheers and applause Thursday, the London leg of Obama's world tour, like his short stop in Paris Friday, was more low key.

A small group of Obama's supporters stood outside the gates of Downing Street chanting his signature slogan "Yes we Can."

The senator's popularity is high here, as in the rest of Europe. A recent newspaper poll suggested Britons favour him to McCain for the presidency by five to one.

Date created : 2008-07-26