Obama: Denmark punching above its weight

Danish soldiers praised as PM visits White House

Although it is a small country, Denmark has a lot to be proud of, said US president Barack Obama after his meeting with Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime minister, at the White House yesterday.

“Denmark is punching above its weight. You're not a big country, but the Danish soldiers are battling in the toughest areas in Afghanistan,” said the president after the meeting between the two heads of state in the Oval Office in the White House.

Rasmussen assured the president that Danish forces would remain in Afghanistan as long as necessary.

The prime minister and the president also discussed the current situation in the Middle East, especially Libya, as well as environmental policy and Denmark's efforts in the international fight against terror.

While the fighting is still going on in Libya, Obama reiterated his stance on the country's future. “Mr Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy and has to step down,” he said.

The president called on the international community to “strongly distance itself from any violence directed at civilians” in Libya and promised humanitarian aid to locals having to flee their homes.

Rasmussen informed Obama of Denmark's military strategy for the Helmand province in Afghanistan – a strategy that Obama fully approved of.

“During Mr Rasmussen's reign, Denmark has secured agreement on a transition strategy for the region, which is a model for the other allies,” said the president, referring to the process of gradually handing over security issues to the Afghans themselves.

The two leaders also agreed to collaborate in the fight against pirates.

“Denmark has decided to start working on a pirate strategy,” said Rasmussen. “The president is considering similar measures, and we have agreed to work closer together in that area.”

Denmark is a big shipping nation, accounting for some ten percent of the global seaway trade, the prime minister pointed out.

“Our collaboration will focus not only on increasing seaway security and the possibility of criminal prosecution and imprisonment of pirates, but also on improving the conditions on land to ensure that piracy doesn’t appear as an attractive source of income for youths in Somalia and elsewhere,” he said.

This was Rasmussen's first official visit to the White House. The Danish delegation arrived in Washington on Sunday night, where the prime minister spent the night in the official White House guest house, Blair House. Prior to the meeting with Obama, the PM also met with several prominent US politicians.