US President Barack Obama's first extended foreign trip will take him to Europe, starting in London and ending in the Czech capital Prague. Germany will also be one of the stops.
Obama plans to meet with his European counterparts
The US President's travel plans were announced on Thursday, March 5, by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Brussels, where she was attending a NATO meeting of foreign ministers.
The president, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, will kick off the European visit in Britain on March 31, where a G20 summit is taking place on the global economic crisis.
Obama will then head to France and Germany for a meeting of NATO leaders, finishing up in the Czech Republic for special EU-US talks on March 5. The Czech Republic currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
According to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, the Obamas' UK visit will also include an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Berlin gave Obama a warm welcome last summer
Clinton said that Obama would be holding bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he attends the NATO summit co-hosted by the French city of Strasbourg and German town of Kehl.
"President Obama is committed, as I am, to strengthening the trans-Atlantic alliance, to supporting a strong Europe that is a strong partner to the United States and to energize our partnerships to confront the common challenges of our time," she said.
The president is broadly expected to use the trip to cement trans-Atlantic ties, seek help in Afghanistan, and coordinate strategies on the worldwide economic downturn.
A welcome guest
Obama's maiden voyage outside the United States as president was to Canada last month.
The last time Obama visited Europe was as a presidential candidate last summer. The visit was part of a foreign tour designed to deflect criticism from his Republican opponent John McCain that he was inexperienced on foreign policy.
A NATO summit will also be part of Obama's agenda
When he spoke at the Victory Column in Berlin on July 24 to a crowd of some 100,000 spectators, he was given a rapturous reception. Like many in Europe, Germans pinned their hopes on Obama for improved trans-Atlantic ties, after the divisions that marked the George W. Bush era.
The news of his planned visit later this month comes just as grumbles were becoming apparent in the European media about the fact that Obama has yet to visit Europe.