Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama plans to visit the Middle East and Europe this summer, taking time off from campaigning in the United States in an effort to boost his foreign policy credentials.
Obama's campaign told AP the likely nominee will travel to Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The Illinois senator also has said he intends to visit Iraq and Afghanistan this summer; his campaign would not say whether those stops would be part of the trip to the Middle East and Europe.
The campaign also would not disclose the dates of any of the plans in an attempt to protect Obama's security. Obama's campaign manager said this past week that Iraq and Afghanistan would be part of an official congressional trip. The other stops are part of a campaign-funded visit.
It is unusual for a presidential candidate to travel internationally so close to Election Day, especially in a closely fought campaign. Obama had considered such a trip last year, but the competitive primary with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made it too risky to spend time away from early primary states.
Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said the senator wants to consult with leaders of some important US allies about common challenges, including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.
Likely to improve America's standing"He obviously wants to consult with the leaders of those countries but also find an opportunity to speak to the people of those countries about our shared values and goals," McDonough said in an interview Saturday.
The stop in Israel could help improve Obama's standing among Jewish voters. Some Jews are concerned about Obama's willingness to speak with Middle Eastern nations that oppose Israel, while others wonder whether he is a closet Muslim.
Obama's father and stepfather were both Muslim and he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, a largely Muslim country. But he says he is a Christian, was a longtime member of Chicago's Trinity United Church and attended secular and Catholic schools.
The trip also will help address Republican rival John McCain's criticism that the first-term Illinois senator lacks the international experience to be commander in chief.
In particular, McCain and the Republican Party have sought to make the case that Obama has not observed conditions in Iraq closely enough to determine whether his plan to remove all combat troops within 16 months is the right course of action.
Obama made his only trip to Iraq in January 2006 as part of a congressional delegation. McCain, a senator from Arizona and Vietnam War veteran, has been to Iraq eight times, most recently in March.
An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll taken this month found that 61% of those surveyed see McCain as a good military leader, compared with 27% for Obama.
But they see Obama as more likely to improve America's standing in the world, 43% to 33% who said the same about McCain.