Obama opens innings promising ‘new era of openness’

January 22nd, 2009 - 3:08 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 22 (IANS) US President Barack Obama began his first full day in office promising transparency and the rule of law in a “new era of openness” in the country.”Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” Obama said as he signed executive orders Wednesday relating to ethics guidelines for staff members of his administration.

Among other things, Obama said he would issue a pay freeze for his senior staff.

Arriving in the Oval Office at 8:35 a.m., Obama began his first full day in office with a moment of solitude in the Oval Office, reading a note from his predecessor, before making phone calls to Middle East leaders.

According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the president spent 10 minutes alone, reading a note left for him in the desk by outgoing President George W. Bush. The note had been placed in an envelope with a note saying: “To: # 44, From: # 43.”

Obama called Middle East leaders, including King Abdullah of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Gibbs said.

First lady Michelle Obama joined her husband in the Oval Office at 9:10 a.m., shortly before the first couple departed for the National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Later in the day, Obama is expected to meet with his economic team and top brass from the Pentagon.

He plans to tell the top US officers that he wants them to plan to have combat forces out of Iraq in 16 months, as he promised during his election campaign, White House adviser David Axelrod told CNN.

“It’s something he still believes is a responsible timetable,” he said. “But they’ll discuss it. Everyone agrees that we need to be on a pace to withdraw our troops, and how that will be implemented I’m sure will be something he’ll discuss.”

Gen. David Petraeus, whose command oversees US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to attend the meeting, CNN said. Petraeus, who will have just arrived from Afghanistan and Pakistan, is expected to brief Obama on the latest developments in the troubled region.

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