Reporting from Washington — — President Obama is putting off his June trip to Indonesia and Australia, postponing the visit for a second time this year as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues unabated.
President Obama is putting off his June trip to Indonesia and Australia, postponing the visit for a second time this year as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues unabated.
Obama called the leaders of both countries Thursday night to convey his regrets, according to a senior administration official. The president said he plans to reschedule a trip so that he can visit both countries soon.
"President Obama underscored his commitment to our close alliance with Australia and our deepening partnership with Indonesia," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement issued overnight.
Obama also plans to hold full bilateral meetings with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the margins of the upcoming G-20 meeting in Canada.
The president, who spent part of his youth in Indonesia, had planned to return there for a visit in March, but canceled the trip as lawmakers on Capitol Hill closed in on a vote on healthcare reform. Aides said at the time that he wanted to stay and work the vote up until the very end.
The disaster in the gulf presents a pressing problem of another kind, with the hole in the ocean floor spewing out oil at a rate of thousands of barrels a day.
Although government officials and experts continue their work there each day without the president's immediate presence, Obama had to weigh the message he would send by leaving the country with the problem unresolved.