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Obama Wraps up Trip in UK, Denies it was 'Victory Lap'

US presidential contender Barack Obama Saturday rejected charges that he had exploited his trip to Berlin, Paris and London for his own election campaign, denying the five-day tour was a premature "victory lap."

Senator Barack Obama with embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street

Senator Barack Obama with embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street

It is part of the job of a United States president to establish effective relations with our allies, Obama told reporters in London after meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Answering a reporter who had asked him to respond to Republican accusations that the had embarked on a "victory lap" abroad, Obama pointed out it was Republican candidate John McCain who had advised him to travel abroad and visit Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Democrat argued his tour had been important, because he was "convinced" America was facing problems "at home" which could not be solved "without strong partners" abroad, Obama said.

Obama and Brown

Obama and Brown take a walk in London on Sunday

Republicans however branded his overseas tour a shallow political stunt. Rival John McCain accused him of speaking to the "people of the

world" and not Americans.

Opinion polls showed that if anything, the race narrowed between Obama and McCain during his nine-day absence. That was despite McCain's struggle to get media coverage during his opponent's trip.

Talks with Brown

Obama described his conversation with Brown as "terrific." His talks in London are the final stage of a trip aimed at enhancing his foreign affairs image, which had led him also to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, the Palestinian areas, Berlin and Paris.

Obama outside Number 10 Downing Street

Obama outside Number 10 Downing Street

At Downing Street 10, he reiterated his call for increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan as well as for stronger contributions by European allies. Those stronger numbers were needed to win the conflict in Afghanistan and build the country, he said.

The Illinois senator noted the traditionally exceptionally strong ties between Great Britain and the US. "I think there is a deep and abiding affection for the British people in America and a fascination with all things British. That's not going to go away any time soon," he said. He was answering a question about his more public appearances in Berlin and Paris.

In Berlin Thursday, Obama had made a 30-minute foreign policy address to an enthusiastic crowd of some 200,000 in the city center.

Low key

His London visit by contrast was low key, and unlike in Berlin and in Paris, where he had had talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Friday, Obama only answered journalists' questions.

Obama talks with Britain's Conservative party leader David Cameron

Obama talks with Britain's Conservative party leader David Cameron

Observers said there was a desire in Britain not to seem to favor either Obama or his Republican Party presidential challenger John McCain, who visited Britain last March.

Deviating from the protocol, and to the surprise of tourists and Londoners, Obama and Brown took a stroll down cordoned-off Downing street. Onlookers, who were nonetheless held at a distance by security forces, were able to photograph the two politicians on the nearby parade ground.

Obama had earlier Saturday morning held a breakfast meeting at his London hotel with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the special Middle East envoy for the international mediating bloc of the US, United Nations, Russia and European Union. Their talks focused principally on the Middle East, but also on Blair's work on climate change, a spokesman said.

The Illinois senator also met Brown's predecessor Tony Blair, now the international community's Middle East envoy, and opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron and left for Chicago later Saturday.

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