Obama set to fly in to East Anglia

AMERICAN president-elect Barack Obama could fly into East Anglia on his first trip abroad, it can be revealed today.

Richard Cornwell

AMERICAN president-elect Barack Obama could fly into East Anglia on his first trip abroad, it can be revealed today.

Air Force One - the presidential jet plane - could be touching down at Stansted early in the New Year after Mr Obama takes office and within weeks starts visiting key world leaders.

American secret service officers have been carrying out detailed sweeps of the airport, checking and testing all its high security arrangements, assessing risks, logistics and communications.

Senior aviation sources in London said Stansted could be the favoured landing and taking off location for the possible visit of the jet because of its excellent road links with central London.

It also has experience of handling big security operations and high-profile passengers - the president of China used it for his visit, and its private terminal is regularly used by the world's richest, such as Hugh Hefner, and pop stars such as Elton John, and football teams.

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Its handling of a hijacking in 2000 was widely praised and showed it has the space to handle major operations and incidents.

Heathrow is busier and there was criticism in the summer when security surrounding current president George Bush's visit forced the cancellation of 69 flights and delays of up to two days for 40,000 other passengers using the airport.

Political experts expect Mr Obama to start visiting other national leaders shortly after taking office in January, with prime minister Gordon Brown top priority because of Britain and America's “special relationship”.

One East Anglian political observer said: “Most people will expect a visit to Britain fairly soon into the presidential term because of the closeness between the countries.

“Mr Obama could use a military airfield but it is more likely he will choose Stansted because he will want his visit to be public though it will require a huge amount of security.

“It will be a huge fillip for Mr Brown, but also a real boost to our region.”

Mr Brown today praised Mr Obama for his election victory.

“I know Barack Obama and we share many values,” he said.

“We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy.

“I've talked to Senator Obama on many occasions and I know that he is a true friend of Britain and I know that the values that we share in common and the policies on which we can work together will enable us as two countries to come through these difficult economic times and build a safer and more secure society for the future.”

Officials at BAA Stansted said they could not comment on possible arrangements for a presidential visit.

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