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Europe

Obama Plans Visit to Europe, Middle East

White House hopeful Barack Obama, seeking to polish up his foreign policy credentials, announced Saturday he would visit major US allies in Europe and the Middle East before the November election.

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Barack Obama has been criticized for his lack of experience in foreign policy

The Democratic senator plans to discuss terrorism, nuclear proliferation and climate change when he speaks with the leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Jordan and Israel, his campaign said.

"This trip will be an important opportunity for me to assess the situation in countries that are critical to American national security and to consult with some of our closest friends and allies about the common challenges we face," Obama said in a statement.

Obama's campaign did not divulge any dates, but the trips will likely take place this summer before the race between Obama and Republican rival John McCain intensifies after party conventions in August and September.

Visit to Iraq and Afghanistan

Obama announced earlier this month plans to visit Iraq and Afghanistan before the election as part of a congressional delegation, but the war-ravaged countries were not mentioned in the latest campaign statement. Such trips are usually kept secret for security reasons.

McCain, who has visited Iraq eight times, has criticized Obama for only visiting once.

The Republican candidate, a 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran who has been in Congress for 26 years, has sought to paint the 46-year-old junior senator from Illinois as too green to take over as America's commander-in-chief.

Obama was an early opponent of the Iraq war and wants most US combat troops pulled out of the country and resources diverted to Afghanistan. McCain is a staunch supporter of the US military presence in Iraq.

Boosting the transatlantic alliance

In Europe, Obama will visit the three countries that have worked closely with Washington in efforts to force Iran to halt uranium enrichment, which the Western powers fear would be used to build a nuclear weapon.

France, Germany and Britain have also been close allies in the war in Afghanistan, which Obama argues is the real front of the "war on terror."

"France, Germany and the United Kingdom are key anchors of the transatlantic alliance and have contributed to the mission in Afghanistan, and I look forward to discussing how we can strengthen our partnership in the years to come," Obama said in his statement.

The trip, he said, "will be an important opportunity to have an exchange of views with leaders in these countries about these and other issues that are critical to American national security -- and global security -- in the 21st century."

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