Obama tells Cameron US backs 'strong' Britain in EU

Posted at 01/18/2013 8:03 AM | Updated as of 01/18/2013 8:12 AM

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama told David Cameron Thursday the United States backed a "strong" Britain in a strong European Union as his friend gears up for a fateful speech on his country's EU future.

Obama and Cameron spoke by telephone and primarily discussed the bloody hostage crisis in Algeria in which both Americans and Britons were caught up, the White House said in a statement.

But Obama also took the opportunity to say that Washington values its closest ally's position within Europe, amid growing debate on the other side of the Atlantic on Britain's future relationship with its continental partners.

"The president underscored our close alliance with the United Kingdom and said that the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union, which makes critical contributions to peace, prosperity, and security in Europe and around the world," the statement said.

Prime Minister Cameron was forced to delay a speech on Britain's future position within the European bloc Friday in the Netherlands, following the eruption of the hostage crisis in Algeria.

He had been due to set out plans to renegotiate Britain's EU membership and to repatriate certain powers from Brussels, and then to allow voters to decide on the new terms of the compact in a referendum after elections in 2015.

Cameron is under fierce pressure from the euroskeptic right wing of his Conservative party to take a stand on Europe and from increasing public hostility towards closer political and financial integration on the continent.

But his deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat coalition partner Nick Clegg has warned against suggesting Britain was heading for the "exit door" of the EU.

European powers have also warned against a British exit from the European Union, and some US commentators have suggested that a Britain outside the EU could render Washington's "special relationship" with London less valuable.

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