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Romney meets with British leaders, talks about London Olympics

July 26, 2012|By Maeve Reston

LONDON -- In the midst of round-robin meetings with current and former leaders here Thursday, Mitt Romney praised the "unique relationship" between the United States and Britain -- and pledged to carry on their commitment to common values, world peace and building a stronger world economy. 

"The world is a tumultuous and dangerous place," the unofficial Republican presidential nominee said just before meeting with Labor Party leader Ed Miliband. "We have great interests [in] a common effort to see greater peace and prosperity. I also appreciate the work of the military of this great nation and our joint effort in Afghanistan. The people of Great Britain have sacrificed enormously in helping bring peace to that nation."

During a day that began with a friendly meeting at the private office of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been serving as a peace envoy in the Middle East, Romney visited Miliband at his offices at Parliament, where the Labor leader invited questions from British reporters.

Romney did not take questions from the American reporters traveling with him, and when a British reporter asked the two men for their thoughts about the British government's focus on the budget deficit during a time of falling growth, Romney demurred.

"While I'm on foreign soil, I'm very careful not to be critical of my own government's policies," he said. "I would be even more remiss if I were to be critical of any other government's policies. I will instead look forward to an exchange of ideas."

Miliband -- who argued earlier this month that "the tide was turning against" fiscal austerity measures, according to the BBC -- said he was looking forward to a discussion with Romney about Syria, the Eurozone and Romney's beloved Boston Red Sox.

"We come from different parties and obviously different viewpoints on some issues, but I think it's incredibly important that leaders work together and that we respect the electorates in each of our countries," Miliband said.

Directing his remarks to Romney, who headed the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, the Labor leader said it was "great to have somebody here who's organized a successful Olympic Games and I'm sure you share our excitement about the Games that begin tomorrow."

Romney was accompanied to his meetings Thursday by former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent; Kerry Healey, his former lieutenant governor in Massachusetts; and his policy director, Lanhee Chen. Later Thursday, he is to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, the official residence.

The presumed Republican nominee is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Games here in London on Friday night. His aides said he hopes to attend at least one sporting event Saturday morning, possibly some men's swimming heats. They said that although he had hoped to catch a women's beach volleyball match, it was unclear whether the timing would work before he leaves for Israel on Saturday.

During an afternoon meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democrat's personal office on the second floor of Whitehall (above what was once King Henry VIII’s tennis court), Romney revealed why he plans to attend the swimming match: "Americans typically do well in swimming," he told Clegg.

Both men laughed.

At Parliament on Thursday, Romney was asked about several pre-Olympics glitches in security as well a mix-up in which images of North Korean athletes were shown next to a South Korean flag  in a video package that preceded a women's soccer match against Colombia. (Members of the London Olympics Organizing Committee released an apology).

"My experience with regards to the Olympics is it is impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur," Romney told reporters Thursday. "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." (In an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, Romney said some of the early security glitches were "disconcerting," a comment that the British media have jumped on.)

On Thursday evening, Romney is to attend a campaign fundraiser for American citizens abroad at the Mandarin Oriental in the Knightsbridge district.

Romney and his wife, Ann, had a private dinner date night Wednesday at the Wolesley, a buzzy hot spot on Piccadilly frequented by bankers, hedge-fund directors and supermodel Kate Moss. Three of the Romneys sons, Tagg, Josh and Craig, are joining their parents in London on Thursday.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

twitter.com/@maevereston

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