WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is onto his next foreign mission: rebuilding relations with Russia, proving to global leaders that America is serious about climate change, and outlining his vision for Africa.
And when in Rome? Obama will go to the Vatican to see Pope Benedict XVI for the first time.
Obama leaves tonight for Moscow, where he will hold a nuclear-arms-focused summit. He meets Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Monday and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
From Moscow, Obama heads for Italy for a meeting of leaders from the world's industrial powers in the town of L'Aquila. The Group of Eight countries — the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia — will try to make progress on climate change. Negotiations for a new global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases are planned for December in Denmark.
Obama will meet the pope on Friday. The president said he has a policy agenda in mind, including such matters as global poverty, and said "having a meeting with the Holy Father is a great honor, and something that I'm very much looking forward to."
The final leg of the trip brings the first black U.S. president to Africa, home to Obama's late Kenyan-born father.
Obama caps the trip in Ghana, a West African country that has emerged as a standout example of democracy in a region beset by coups. He will speak to parliament, emphasizing the promise of democratic governance, and tour a castle that once served as a hub of slave trading.