Europe: Obama tends to old allies, new challenges

By JULIE PACE and NANCY BENAC | May 21, 2011 | 8:59 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's weeklong tour of Europe is all about tending to old friends in the Western alliance and securing their help with daunting challenges, from political upheaval in the Mideast and North Africa to the war in Afghanistan.

Obama is leaving Sunday night.

Obama's eighth trip to Europe as president features a quick-moving itinerary that dips into four countries over six days — Ireland, England, France and Poland.

The visit unfolds against the backdrop of the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya and stubborn economic weakness on both sides of the Atlantic.

A priority will be to more clearly define the West's role in promoting stability and democracy in the Arab world without being too meddlesome and within tight financial limitations.