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UK PM Cameron to visit Washington next month


Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks to U.S. President Barack Obama on the phone in his office at his official country residence of Chequers outside London June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Parsons/handout
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks to U.S. President Barack Obama on the phone in his office at his official country residence of Chequers outside London June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Parsons/handout

LONDON (Reuters) - David Cameron, who held telephone talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday, will make his first visit to the United States as British prime minister on July 20.

Seeking to calm transatlantic tensions over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama told Cameron that his frustrations over the issue had nothing to do with national identity, Cameron's office said in a statement.

Both sides confirmed that Cameron would visit Washington next month. The two men will meet before then at the G20 summit of rich and emerging nations in Canada later this month.

British business leaders and some members of Cameron's own Conservative party have expressed concern about the level of pressure Obama has been exerting on London-based BP and also said that the rhetoric had taken on an "anti-British" tone.

Cameron has been under fire at home for not doing enough to protect a company that provides more than 12 percent of dividends paid by British companies. U.S. politicians want dividends to be suspended until clean-up costs are paid.

However, Cameron is wary of picking a fight with the U.S. government, Britain's strongest ally, at a time when the two countries are fighting a war in Afghanistan and engaged in a diplomatic drive to halt Iran's nuclear program.

The statement from Cameron's office said the two men discussed Afghanistan following the British prime minister's visit there in recent days.

They also agreed that European Union leaders must signal tough measures to get Iran to halt its nuclear program after a fresh round of United Nations sanctions was passed.

On a lighter note, they found time to wager beer against beer on the outcome of Saturday's World Cup soccer match between England and the United States.

British leaders make great play of the "special relationship" between the two countries but former Prime Minister Tony Blair was lampooned as a poodle for his support for U.S. President George W. Bush.

Blair, prime minister from 1997-2007, sent 45,000 British troops into Iraq in 2003 as part of the U.S.-led invasion.

That move alienated many supporters of Blair's Labour party. Labour lost power last month to a coalition of Cameron's Conservatives and the smaller Liberal Democrats.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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