Charles Dharapak, AP
LONDON — With the Olympic Games as a backdrop, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday plunged into a series of meetings with British leaders, including Prime Minister David Cameron.
The likely GOP nominee sought to send a message that he recognizes the close bonds between the U.S. and its top ally — and to project an image of leadership.
"The world is a tumultuous and dangerous place," Romney said Thursday. "And certainly in many of the regions around the world we have great interests in having a common effort in seeing greater peace and prosperity." As he met with British leaders past and present, the Republican also praised "the unique relationship that exists between our nations, our commitment to common values, our commitment to peace in the world and a desire to see a stronger and growing economy."
Romney, whose decades in private business gave him ample exposure to international affairs, is a former one-term governor untested on the world's political stage. He hopes to convince voters back home that he is no novice on foreign affairs and that they should elect him as president in a complex world and with the U.S. facing a myriad of security threats.
Romney and Cameron met privately and exchanged pleasantries during the Republican's first full day in London.
The meeting came after Romney, who was head of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, said it wasn't clear whether Britain could overcome the issues that have dogged its final preparations for the Olympics.
"It's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Romney told NBC News in an interview broadcast Thursday in London.
During the public portion of his meeting with Cameron, Romney weighed in again after his comment drew attention in Britain. "It is impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur," he said. "Of course there will be errors from time to time, but those are all overshadowed by the extraordinary demonstrations of courage, character and determination by the athletes."
Cameron told reporters that Romney and others would soon "see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver."
Meeting with British officials is typically one of the first priorities of any new president, and establishing those relationships beforehand can help smooth any transition. It's not unusual for American presidential candidates to meet with British leaders during the campaign; Obama did so when he took a trip abroad as the likely Democratic nominee in 2008.
Romney's weeklong overseas trip will also take him to Israel and Poland.
As Thursday began, former Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted Romney at his private office few blocks off Hyde Park. The former Labour Party prime minister now serves as a special envoy to the Middle East, and the Romney campaign said the two men discussed the Middle East peace process, the situation in Syria, Iran and the wider region. They also discussed economic issues facing both countries, and chatted about the upcoming Olympic competitions.
Romney then met with Ed Miliband, the current leader of the Labour Party — the opposition to Cameron's Conservative Party. Before that session, Miliband invited two reporters from what he called "my side" to ask questions, although Romney declined to take questions from American journalists.
Romney then moved on to a meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague. The candidate was also slated to meet with Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Britain's top financial official.
Romney also will spend part of his time in London raising money and highlighting a key part of his resume — the successful Salt Lake City Olympics he managed — with an appearance Friday at the opening ceremonies of the London Games.
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