Prime minister heads for Washington

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende will be in Washington on Tuesday for his first formal meeting with US president Barack Obama.

The two have met several times at international gatherings. Foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen is also making the trip.
Talks between Balkenende and Obama are expected to focus on the relationship between the two countries and Europe, global efforts to combat the economic crisis, the climate and food shortages, the Telegraaf reports.
The situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East is also likely to be on the agenda, says news agency ANP.
Dutch model
The Netherlands is one of the main players in Afghanistan and US senior officials, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton, have praised the Dutch softly softly approach to the region.
‘If I am in the US, I always hear about ‘The Dutch Model’. Obama knows a heavy-handed military approach will not bring peace,’ Willem Post, an expert on US affairs at the Clingendael institute, told the NRC.
Balkenende and Verhagen will also meet Nancy Pelosi the chairwoman of the house of representatives. Balkenende will hold talks with Dominique Strauss-Kahn who chairs the International Monetary Fund and Verhagen will meet Clinton.
‘Balkenende must have been surprised about the barbecue-loving farmer that was Bush,’ Post told the NRC. ‘Obama, by contrast, is an intellectual, serious – you could almost say he had a Calvinist streak. They could get along very well.’
The paper says Balkenende was very touched when Obama sent him a note after the death of his father, which led to him pulling out of an earlier trip to the US.

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