* Obama arrives in Britain early to avoid ash cloud
* Royal pomp awaits
* Libya, Arab Spring among topics for Obama, Cameron
By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
LONDON, May 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on
Tuesday begins a visit to Britain where he and Prime Minister
David Cameron will review NATO action to help end conflict in
Libya and Western policy towards uprisings in the Arab world.
He and Cameron will also launch a joint U.S.-British group
to tackle national security challenges together.
As a precautionary measure Obama flew to London on Monday
night instead of Tuesday morning because of fears that a
volcanic ash cloud from Icelandic could drift over Ireland and
prevent his Air Force One jet from flying.
That forced him to cut short a cheerful visit to Ireland,
where he sipped a pint of Guinness in the village of Moneygall
to celebrate ancestral roots there and used a speech in Dublin
to lift Irish spirits bruised by a severe economic downturn.
In London, Obama will experience some of the celebratory
pomp put on by the British royal family while on a four-nation
trip that will include a Group of Eight summit in Deauville,
France, later in the week and conclude with a stop in Poland.
On Tuesday he will attend a formal arrival ceremony at
Buckingham Palace laid on by Queen Elizabeth, a wreath-laying at
Westminster Abbey, talks with British Prime Minister David
Cameron and a state dinner hosted by the queen. Obama and his
wife, Michelle, are to spend two nights at Buckingham Palace.
ASIA, MIDDLE EAST CROWD THE AGENDA
His speech at Westminster Hall on Wednesday may give him an
opportunity to outline how Washington now views Europe in a
crowded diplomatic agenda dominated by challenges from Asia to
the Middle East.
Obama and Cameron are to announce the formation of a
U.S.-British national security council to work together on
international challenges and share intelligence, an Obama
administration official said.
It was not developed in response to any one issue, but will
help enable "a more guided, coordinated approach to analyze the
'over the horizon' challenges we may face in the future."
Obama and Cameron, who are to hold a joint news conference
on Wednesday, reaffirmed their countries' close ties in a joint
article that was appearing in The Times of London.
"It is a perfect alignment of what we both need and what we
both believe. And the reason it remains strong is because it
delivers time and again. Ours is not just a special
relationship, it is an essential relationship - for us and for
the world," they wrote.
A challenge for the two leaders is Libya. Obama, Cameron and
their NATO counterparts launched an air campaign in March to
protect Libyan civilians from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a
civil war between him and rebels who now control eastern Libya.
While many Libyan civilians, especially in the east, have
been protected by NATO air strikes, Gaddafi remains in power,
ignoring calls from Western leaders like Obama and Cameron on
him to go to permit a democratic transition.
Obama and Cameron are also expected to review the fight
against Islamist militants and relations with Pakistan after the
killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special
forces on May 2 on Pakistani soil.
Obama will be looking as well for British support for his
effort to advance the movement for democratic change offered by
the "Arab Spring" uprisings in the Middle East.
(Additional reporting by Keith Weir; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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