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Obama and Cameron at G20 summit: At least the US-UK World Cup duel is over

When Obama and Britain's Cameron meet Saturday at the G20 summit, at least they won't have a World Cup matchup between their countries to tussle over. The need for more stimulus to propel the global economic recovery? That's another matter.

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To which Cameron seemed to reply, in an opinion piece published Friday in Toronto’s Globe and Mail: “Of course, there must be the flexibility for countries to act, taking account of their own national circumstances,” he wrote. “But I believe we must each start by setting out plans for getting our national finances under control.”

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For relief from a stubbornly limp global economy, Afghanistan anyone? Britain maintains the second-largest deployment in the war after the US, but some administration officials worry that when Cameron says he doesn’t want a British soldier on the ground there “a day longer than necessary,” he may be looking to wind down the British presence sooner rather than later.

Then there is the broader issue of defense spending. Obama administration officials have pressed European leaders to reverse their continent’s trend of dwindling military budgets, pointing out that it makes them less able and willing to respond to joint Alliance missions like the one in Afghanistan.

But the British military – though it remains the largest in Europe – was not spared in Cameron’s emergency budget, furrowing brows across Washington.

That leaves the BP oil spill, which won’t exactly be cause for happy talk between the two leaders.

Obama and Cameron already sought to calm transatlantic tensions over the Gulf oil leak and responsibilities for cleaning it up in a telephone call last weekend. But the British press and some members of Parliament have continued to find anti-British sentiment in the US administration’s approach to the disaster, and specifically in Obama’s rhetoric.

Cameron, who has emphasized the importance to Britons and Americans alike of a financially healthy BP, plans to query Obama about the array of costs facing BP in the disaster cleanup, a spokesman to the prime minister said Friday.

Not exactly a fun agenda. But wait! Maybe sport can lighten things up after all. White House officials say Obama is likely to turn to the World Cup as a way of striking a friendly (if subtly dominant – the Brits might say typically American-arrogant) tone in the conversation.

Word has it that Obama will rib Cameron over the fact that Team USA, and not the mighty English, came out on top of their common first-round group.