Did Barack Obama Snub Gordon Brown?

ABC's Alexa Lightner reports from London:

As the political climate in the U.K. gets tenser with elections looming this spring and Gordon Brown trailing in the polls, the British press rarely miss an opportunity to badger their prime minister. Browns’ recent trip to New York provided their latest P.M. bashing material, as they all jumped at the chance to question the strength of the “special relationship” between the U.K and the U.S.

In the past couple of days, many London headlines claim President Obama “snubbed” Gordon Brown by ignoring five of the Prime Minister’s requests to meet one-on-one in New York.

The reason? U.S. pique at the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

In an article today entitled, “Barack Obama’s 5 U.N. Snubs for P.M. Gordon Brown,” the Daily Mail reported that “Downing Street had to ‘beg’ for a meeting with Mr. Obama,” and “The White House had rebuffed the requests for joint appearances five times over the past couple of weeks.”

In “Barack Obama Rebuffs Gordon Brown as 'Special Relationship' Sinks to New Low,” the Daily Telegraph stated yesterday that, “the White House's refusal to meet Mr. Brown had been a serious embarrassment for the Prime Minister,” and that Downing Street, in “desperation,” had even changed its policy on supplying swine flu vaccines to Africa in order to secure a meeting, unsuccessfully. As an alternative, Brown “had to settle instead for a snatched conversation with the President in a New York kitchen.”

Even the Guardian, a much more liberal British paper, went from reporting that Brown “was hailed as a hero for ‘stabilising’ the world economy and showing ‘compassionate leadership’” in the U.S. yesterday to writing today, “Gordon Brown lurched from being hailed as a global statesman to intense embarrassment tonight, after it emerged U.S. President Barack Obama had turned down no fewer than five requests from Downing Street to hold a bilateral meeting.”

All three articles cite America’s negative reaction to the Lockerbie Bomber’s recent release as the reason for the supposed “snubs.”

But Gordon Brown and the American embassy in London had something else to say. “Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and U.K. are totally absurd,” said the Office of National Security Council spokesman, Mike Hammer, in a press release today. “The U.S.-U.K. special relationship is strong and doing well… Obama and Prime Minister Brown enjoy a terrific relationship.”

"I do say that the special relationship between Britain and America is strong, it continues to strengthen and I think the reason it's strong is that it's based on common values,” said Gordon Brown to diplomatic sources, according to a BBC News article today. Apparently, there are no hard feelings between the nations’ leaders, but as an election approaches in the U.K., the press will only get more vicious.

Obama and Brown will meet in Pittsburgh this evening at the G-20 summit. Snub or no snub, the Prime Minister can expect more ‘analysis’ from the British press.

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