President Barack Obama Wednesday hailed the "indispensable" U.S. alliance with Britain, welcoming Prime Minister David Cameron for White House talks on Iran and Afghanistan.
As pink cherry blossoms framed an unseasonably warm March day in Washington, Obama and his wife Michelle welcomed Cameron and his wife Samantha with a pounding 19-gun salute, military brass bands and full ceremonial honors.
"Through the grand sweep of history, through all its twists and turns, there is one constant: the rock-solid alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom," said Obama, before the two men opened talks.
Against a backdrop of global crisis evading diplomatic solutions, Obama said Britain and the United States stand together, work together, bleed together and build together, making a safer, more prosperous and better world.
"Our alliance is essential. It is indispensable to the security and prosperity that we seek, not only for our own citizens, but for people around the world," he said.
He also joked about the time in 1814 when the British sent a colonial army to burn down the White House.
"They made quite an impression -- they really lit up the place."
Obama also lapsed into some clichéd British vernacular, telling Cameron he was "chuffed to bits" to welcome him for a "good natter" and wanted to keep the U.S.-British relationship in a "top notch" state.
Cameron gazed across ranks of troops in ceremonial dress and joked the presidential mansion was better defended than 200 years ago.
"You're clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time," Cameron said, before going on to praise a compact between the two nations forged in wartime by president Franklin Roosevelt and prime minister Winston Churchill.
"When the chips are down, Britain and America know that we can always count on each other," he said.
"We are allies who are not just prepared to say the right thing but to do the right thing and do it in the right way," he said.
The talks are likely to be dominated by the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, fears that NATO war strategy in Afghanistan may be unraveling and the failure to stop President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown in Syria.
Britain and America are key nations in an international effort to force Iran to halt its nuclear program, which the West says is intended to produce weapons -- a charge Tehran denies.
Both nations have warned against the prospect of an early, preemptive strike by Israel against Iranian nuclear facilities, although Obama has reaffirmed the Jewish state's right to defend itself.
Cameron arrived in Washington as Obama was trying to still fallout from a U.S. soldier's shooting rampage in Afghanistan, which was the latest severe jolt to Washington's tense ties with Kabul and its under pressure war strategy.
The U.S. leader is also facing a tough time on the domestic front, as rising gas prices threaten to choke a fragile economic recovery which is crucial to his chances of winning reelection in November's election.
The two leaders also planned a joint press conference, at which Cameron could be hounded by British journalists over the arrest of his friends Charlie Brooks and former Rupert Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks in a phone tapping case.
Later, the Camerons and Obamas were to star at a formal dinner in an elaborate marquee set up on the south lawn of the White House.
World number one golfer Rory McIlroy said on Twitter he would be at the White House, a few miles south of the Congressional golf club, where he captured his first major championship at the U.S. Open last year.
British actor Damian Lewis, star of HBO's wartime miniseries "Band of Brothers" and television thriller "Homeland" is also said to be among celebrities on the closely guarded guest list for the dinner.
Cameron had barely landed on U.S. soil on Tuesday when he was whisked off by Obama to the crucial swing state of Ohio, to watch a basketball game which tipped off the annual March Madness college tournament.
He also became the first world leader hosted by Obama on his iconic Air Force One jet, in a piece of statecraft which contrasted with the rocky start to U.S.-Britain relations under Obama and former British leader Gordon Brown.
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