Obama makes promise to Pope

VATICAN - US President Barack Obama promised Pope Benedict XVI on Friday that he would try to limit the number of abortions in the United States, the Vatican spokesperson said.

"The pontiff told me that President Obama affirmed his personal commitment to try to reduce the number of abortions in the United States," Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi told a news briefing.

Lombardi said the promise was "very explicit" during a 40-minute meeting at the Vatican, their first since Obama took office in January.

Obama and the pope discussed "the defence and the promotion of life", the Vatican added in a communique.

After the audience, the pope offered Obama a copy of an "instruction" on reproductive technology.

The document titled "Dignitas Personae" (Dignity of the Person) lists biomedical techniques considered "illicit" by the Roman Catholic Church such as the therapeutic use of stem cells and the use of the "morning-after" contraceptive pill.

Obama set for emotional visits

L'Aquila, Italy - President Barack Obama is ending three days of policy discussions with fellow world leaders to embark on two of the most photogenic and emotional events of his young presidency: meeting the pope at the Vatican and visiting Ghana.

He was throwing in a televised news conference from Italy for good measure.

Obama, his wife and daughters will meet Pope Benedict XVI shortly before leaving Italy late on Friday for Ghana. The two men have spoken by phone but not met before, aides say.

In Ghana, officials expect a tumultuous reception for Obama, whose father was from Kenya. Because the first family arrives rather late on Friday night, the main ceremony in Accra will occur on Saturday, before he departs for Washington after a weeklong trip that started in Russia.

It will involve drumming groups and Ghanians "putting their best foot forward in terms of the cultural richness of an incredibly diverse country", White House adviser Michelle Gavin told reporters on Thursday. To help accommodate the many who cannot attend, US and Ghanian officials have scheduled "watch parties", radio broadcasts and video coverage in theatres, parks and other places.

Mix success

"I do not believe that there is a way in which we could ever fulfill or assuage the desires of those in Ghana or on the continent on one stop," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

But first, Obama had some final business at the Group of Eight nations meeting in central Italy, where he has had mixed success in seeking accords on greenhouse gas emissions and other matters. He will meet with several African leaders early on Friday, then hold a news conference.

Next comes the audience with the pope, whose generally conservative views will not entirely mesh with Obama's. They are likely to discuss world poverty, the Middle East and other topics, aides say, but the visit will be largely personal and spiritual.

"There are issues on which they'll agree, issues on which they'll disagree and issues on which they'll agree to continue to work on going forward," White House national security adviser Denis McDonough told reporters on Thursday.

"Given the influence of the Catholic Church globally," he said, and "the influence of the Catholic Church and church social teaching on the president himself, he recognises that this is much more than your typical state visit".

10.000 police for Obama visit to Ghana

ACCRA, Ghana - Authorities in Ghana say they will deploy more than 10.000 police in this West African nation to boost security for US President Barack Obama's weekend visit.

Assistant police commissioner Daniel Avorga told The Associated Press the security forces would be deployed in both the capital, Accra, and the town of Cape Coast, where Obama and his family will visit a former British fort once used to ship slaves to the Americas.

Obama arrives in Ghana late on Friday and will meet the country's president, speak to parliament and visit Cape Coast Castle before leaving on Saturday evening.

Obama is wildly popular in Ghana, and there are no known threats he would face in the country.

Avorga said on Wednesday the police mobilisation was aimed at ensuring his safety.

(Source: http://www.news24.com/, South Africa)

He said: "Obama's visit is historic.. .. We want to ensure that everybody can move about freely without any fear."