Romney stirs Olympic tiff as European tour begins

By Kasie Hunt And David Stringer

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Later, Romney and Cameron met in private, discussing economic issues and alliances in Afghanistan and Syria — as well as the Olympics — and the American sought again to clarify his remarks on the games.

"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."

By the end of the day Thursday, Romney was outlining his own mistakes as a way of explaining why he had mentioned problems with security forces and immigration enforcement.

"My experience as an Olympic organizer is that there are always a few very small things that end up not going quite right in the first day or so — these get ironed out and then when the games themselves begin and the athletes take over," Romney said as he stood outside No. 10 Downing St. "All the mistakes of the organizing committee, and I made a few, all of those are overwhelmed by the many things that the athletes carry out that capture the spirit of the Games."

Back home, White House spokesman Jay Carney piled on, telling reporters about an Olympic security briefing held in Washington.

"In keeping with our special relationship, the president also made it clear that he has the utmost confidence in our close friend and ally, the United Kingdom, as they finalize preparations to host the London Olympics," Carney said.

After a day of meetings and an interview with CNN, Romney headed to a fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental hotel that raised over $2 million. It attracted employees of Barclays, which has been in the spotlight after becoming the first bank to admit its employees were involved in manipulating a key interest rate index.

Last month, U.S. and British agencies fined Barclays a total of $453 million. Chief executive Bob Diamond resigned. Diamond was to have been a host of Romney's fundraiser. He dropped out of the event but had already sent a check for $2,500.

So have 82 others who listed their employer as Barclays or Barclays Capital on Federal Election Commission records, including two who gave the maximum to the Romney campaign both in 2011 and 2012.

Reports of Barclays' links to the Romney campaign drew the attention of some members of the British House of Commons, who called on "Barclays and its executives to cease fundraising for political candidates immediately and to concentrate entirely on repairing confidence and trust in the banking system instead."

Romney took questions from the donors who had gathered in a ballroom at the hotel in the Knightsbridge neighborhood in London. Asked about how he would deal with banking regulation, Romney said the Republican Party has sometimes made a "mistake" in focusing too much on deregulation — but that a sweeping banking overhaul passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis went too far.

"I believe Dodd-Frank has gone beyond what was appropriate," Romney said of the banking bill.

Earlier, Romney met with the head of MI-6, Britain's intelligence service, during his visit to the Foreign Commonwealth Office. The meeting wasn't listed on public schedules, and revealing such a meeting isn't common in the U.K. But the Republican presidential candidate told reporters about it in a statement outside Cameron's home.

In his other meetings, British officials questioned Romney about so-called fiscal "cliff" that U.S. policymakers will have to deal with next year, as well as his plans to expand trade and potentially develop a free trade agreement between America and the Europeans. Romney asked questions about the situations in Iran and also in Syria, where a broiling conflict has the potential to flare as an election issue in the fall.

The candidate's troubles started even before he landed in London.

Earlier this week, the Australians issued a statement clarifying Foreign Minister Bob Carr's remarks after Romney told donors that Carr met with him and sees an "America in decline."

Romney also has faced criticism in the Jewish press abroad for scheduling a fundraiser on Tisha B'Av, a Jewish fasting day that commemorates the destruction of two temples in Jerusalem. And Romney was forced to distance himself from an unnamed campaign adviser quoted in the Daily Telegraph newspaper saying that Romney believes the U.S. relationship with Britain is special because of shared "Anglo Saxon heritage" and that the current White House doesn't appreciate that shared history.

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