LONDON (AP) - As President Barack Obama sought to rally the world's powers to fix a lifeless global economy, the White House announced Wednesday that Obama and Russia's president were ready to negotiate on reducing both nations' nuclear arsenals.
The flurry of diplomacy came as Obama stepped on the world stage
for the first time as president, aiming to shore up both America's economy and its reputation across the globe. The White House confirmed that Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would
announce new talks to limit the number of nuclear warheads, the first major negotiations in years over what Obama called the gravest threat to humanity.
Ahead of the G-20 summit of the world's richest and emerging economies, Obama said he came to listen, not lecture - but also to lead. Pushing for unity, he said, "We can only meet this challenge together."
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters converged on central London to rally against the summit.
Speaking directly to anxious families back home, Obama sought to restore consumer confidence and encourage people to think about spending now to help their future.
"Basing decisions around fear is not the right way to go," he said. "We are going to get through this difficult time."
The president also disputed criticism that the United States was feuding with other nations about the need to pump more money into economic stimulus policies.
"I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems," Obama said.
Obama prodded nations to spur growth and work together on regulatory reform, and not fall into the kind of protectionism and other mistakes that helped fuel the Great Depression.
"That is a mistake that we cannot afford to repeat," Obama said during a news conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Brown, too, sought to play up consensus. "We are within a few hours, I think, of agreeing a global plan for economic recovery and reform," he said.
Regarding Russia, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama
and Medvedev will announce negotiations on nuclear talks when they
meet in London. They would be the first major arms control negotiations since 1997.
Gibbs said the two countries want to reduce the number of nuclear warheads but the leaders have not settled on a specific goal.
"Both sides of the Atlantic understand that, as much as the constant cloud of nuclear warfare has receded, that the presence of these deadly weapons continues to be the gravest threat to humanity," Obama said during his news conference with Brown.
The discussion centers on a possible replacement of the dying 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which limited the world's two largest nuclear arsenals. START expires Dec. 5.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama acknowledged strained relations between
the two nations but says the time has come to emphasize areas where
they can work together. He said the specter of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists continues to be the greatest threat against humanity.
Obama is meeting separately with Medvedev and Chinese President
Hu Jintao. Officials in both countries have called for a new global currency to end the dollar's dominance, although it's unlikely that the idea will gain immediate traction.
Obama's talks with Hu are sure to address Beijing's concerns about the safety of its position as Washington's biggest foreign creditor, with about $1 trillion in U.S. government debt. For the U.S., there are fears that any Chinese flight away from those investments would erode the U.S. ability to spend more on recession-fighting.
Both meetings are being held at the U.S. ambassador's residence, with the news media only allowed into the room before the talks take place and without the ability to ask questions.
The G-20 meetings open with a working dinner Wednesday night and
continue throughout Thursday.
Before the summit even opened, divisions emerged among nations'
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed dissatisfaction with how the summit has been shaping up and warned he would rather risk a public dispute than accept a vague consensus or a "false compromise."
Brown said he was confident Sarkozy would still be at the table when the dinner was complete.
In London, Obama is also meeting with Brown's main rival - David Cameron, the leader of Britain's opposition Conservative Party. In the afternoon, the president and first lady Michelle Obama head to Buckingham Palace for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.