Hoops and diplomacy for British prime minister’s visit

No matter what you call it, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to the United States is intended to demonstrate that ties between the countries remain as close as ever.

The White House labeled Cameron’s visit — which starts Tuesday and includes meetings with lunch and dinner at the White House on Wednesday — an official one.

That’s because the label of state visit is reserved for heads of state, and Cameron is the head of government, with Queen Elizabeth II the head of state.

However, the White House statement said Cameron would attend a state dinner Wednesday night, the sixth of the Obama administration so far.

Before that, Cameron and President Barack Obama will fly together on Air Force One to Dayton, Ohio, to take in an opening game of the NCAA basketball tournament Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, Cameron and Obama will hold talks at the White House and address a joint news conference, followed by lunch and, later, the White House dinner with full diplomatic trappings and toasts — whether called an official or state function.

Cameron and his wife, Samantha, will leave Washington Thursday.

“The visit will highlight the fundamental importance of the U.S.-U.K. special relationship and the depth of the friendship between the American people and the people of the United Kingdom, as well as the strong personal bond that has developed between the two leaders and their families,” a White House statement said.

Topics expected to come up at Wednesday’s meetings include the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits, as well as Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iran and the global economy, according to the White House.

In a joint op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, Obama and Cameron emphasized the global benefits of the strong alliance between their nations.

“The alliance between the United States and Great Britain is a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share,” the two leaders wrote. “But what makes our relationship special — a unique and essential asset — is that we join hands across so many endeavors. Put simply, we count on each other and the world counts on our alliance.”

Troops and citizens of the two countries “have long shown what can be achieved when British and Americans work together, heart and hand, and why this remains an essential relationship — to our nations and the world,” the commentary by Obama and Cameron said.

By Tom Cohen, CNN

CNN’s Stacia Deshishku contributed to this report.

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