Obama, Cameron hold news conference in London

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President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are holding a joint news conference on the lawn at London’s Lancaster House. Topics on their agenda: NATO’s mission in Libya and the unrest and violence across the Middle East and North Africa, the stalled Mideast peace process and the war in Afghanistan.

Updated at 7:56 a.m. ET:

The leaders have arrived. Cameron opens by welcoming the president and noting that they’ve been enjoying a barbecue at 10 Downing Street.

He says he has come to value Obama’s “leaderhip and his courage” over the past year.

Updated at 7:58 a.m. ET:

Cameron says the pair have held discussions on world events and the global economy. He says he and Obama do not intend to “see our economies decline” or saddle the next generation with huge debt.

Updated at 8:00 a.m. ET:

Cameron says he and Obama also discussed global security, and he recalls that his wife was in New York City on 9/11 and he will never forget the five hours it took for him to reach her. He congratulates Obama on the mission to kill bin Laden. Notes that this is a “vital year” in Afghanistan and says now is the moment to ‘step up our efforts” to reach a political settlement. He also praises Obama’s recent speech on the Mideast peace process, in which Obama called for a return to the 1967 borders.

Updated at 8:03 a.m. ET:

Turning to the Arab Spring spreading across the Mideast and North Africa, Cameron says this is no time to shrink back and allow the “poisonous narrative of extremism” to take over. In Libya, he says Moammar Gadhafi “must go.”

Updated at 8:06 a.m. ET:

Cameron calls the U.S.-British partnership one that “goes beyond foreign affairs.” He says it has been an honor to host Obama.

Updated at 8:07 a.m. ET:

Obama thanks the queen for the generous welcome to England. He notes that he and Cameron may be leaders of different political persuasions but they see eye-to-eye on a host of topics. He calls the U.S.-British bond a “special relationship” and an “essential relationship.”

Updated at 8:09 a.m. ET:

Obama says he and the prime minister agree that it is essential to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a “launching pad” for terrorism. Across North Africa and the Mideast, Obama says the leaders will continue to strongly oppose violence against protesters and press for an end to Gadhafi’s regime. He says the leaders also discussed their concerns about the violence in Syria and Yemen. And he calls the Mideast peace process “more urgent than ever.”

Updated at 8:12 a.m. ET:

Finally, Obama says the pair launched a joint initiaive on supporting military families, a signature issue for first lady Michelle Obama.

Updated at 8:14 a.m. ET:

A question from the BBC: Will Britain escalate the effort in Libya? And will the U.S. sit that escalation out? Cameron says the country will look at “all of the options” for turning up the pressure on Gadhafi. Answering another question about the relationship between him and Obama, he cites an “extremely strong” partnership on issues from Libya to Afghanistan.

Updated at 8:16 a.m. ET:

Obama says the coalition has made enormous progress in Libya so far. He says Gadhafi needs to understand there “will not be a let-up” in the pressure being applied. The goal, he says, is for the Libyan people to decide their fate.

Updated at 8:18 a.m. ET:

In Afghanistan, this will be “a year of transition” to an Afghan-led security process. He says there is “no doubt” that the U.S. and the United Kingdon have a unique relationship because “there is so much that binds us together.” He notes that the nations are using military power in a “strategic way.”

Updated at 8:20 a.m. ET:

Question for Obama: Will you step up the campaign in Libya if that’s what’s needed to get rid of Gadhafi? Obama says he has said from the beginning that U.S. involvement was aimed at protecting the Libyan people and setting the stage for NATO command and control, with U.S. support. He says he believes it will be difficult to meet the U.N. madate for security for the Libyan people with Gadhafi in place and we are “committed” to following through. He says he is confident Gadhafi will ultimately step down as long as the pressure continues.

Updated at 8:23 a.m. ET:

Obama emphasizes that he and Cameron agree that they will not put “boots on the ground” in Libya. He says there may be a “false perception” that there are a bunch of “secret” air assets that could solve the problem in Libya. “That’s not the case,” he says. “We are bringing to bear and array of air power … but ultimately this is going to be a slow, steady process.”

Updated at 8:25 a.m. ET:

Cameron says the “two key things here are patience and persistence.” He says he and Obama “completely agree” that the U.N. resolution is not about regime change but about protecting the Libyan people. However, it’s hard to see how you do that with Gadhafi in power, he adds.

Updated at 8:28 a.m. ET:

Cameron says the world should not “underestimate” the work that’s being done to aid the rebels.

Updated at 8:28 a.m. ET:

Question for Obama: Has Cameron gone too far, too fast on debt and deficit reduction? Obama says ‘each country is different” and will have to make a range of decisions about how to “dig our way out” of recession and move toward sustainable growth. He says world leaders have succeeded on the first front. Now, “how do we sustain growth in a way that’s responsible and responsive to the needs of our people?” He notes that circumstances are different in each country – but he is clear that “David and I want to arrive at the same point,” where governments are working toward long-term prosperity.

Updated at 8:32 a.m. ET:

Obama says leaders must take a “balanced approach” of cuts and increased revenues. Each country is going to have to go through a “diffficult and painful process.”

Updated at 8:34 a.m. ET:

Cameron says Britain does not have a reserve currency so is not in the same position as the U.S. when it comes to pulling out of recession and promoting growth. He defends his dramatic steps toward deficit-reduction and says he and Obama share the desire not to pass the burden to the next generation. He says he and Obama may take “different paths” but they are working toward the same goal.

Updated at 8:36 a.m. ET:

Obama is asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contention that a return to 1967 borders is a “fantasy.” He says to achieve peace and security, all sides will face “wrenching compromise.” He notes that some of the issues, particularly the status of Jerusalem, are “extraordinarily emotional.” He says his speech on the Mideast last week was meant to say: “Let’s begin the work” of discussing what the territorial boundaries will look like. He says no party from the outside can impose an agreement, but he aims to foster renewed dialogue between the sides.

Updated at 8: 40 a.m. ET:

Obama adds that Israel rightly is very concerned about the Palestinians’ new unity government including Hamas. He says the Palestinians must somehow resolve the questions around the new government.

Updated at 8:42 a.m. ET:

Obama says he believes that Hamas “in its own description of its agenda has not renounced violence” or recognized the state of Israel, and until they do, it will be hard for Israel to engage in serious conversations. So far, he says, Hamas has not shown a willingness to make concessions.

Updated at 8:44 a.m. ET:

Cameron says it is “absolutely vital” that the Israelis know their security is crucial to the U.S. and the U.K. He notes that the peace process in Northern Ireland was successful because both sides knew they had to give.

Updated at 8:47 a.m. ET:

Obama says he remains optimistic “but not naively so.”

Updated at 8:47 a.m. ET:

Obama thanks Cameron for his good wishes for the people of Missouri, battered by storms in recent days.

See photos of: Barack Obama, David Cameron

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