WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bonds between the United States and Britain are stronger than ever, built on shared goals and national ideals, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday at a formal White House arrival ceremony for visiting Prime Minister David Cameron.
Obama made only oblique references to some of the most difficult world problems he will discuss with Cameron, including the prospect that Iran might build a nuclear weapon.
"We believe that our citizens should be able to live free form fear," Obama told a large crowd assembled on the sun-splashed South Lawn of the White House. "So like generations before us, we stand united in the defense of our countries and against those who would terrorize our people or endanger the globe with the world's most dangerous weapons."
The White House lavished Cameron with all the pomp and pageantry of a state visit as the two allies aimed stressed their unity in dealing with hot spots like Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. Military bands and a large crowd were arrayed before Obama and Cameron, with Vice President Joe Biden and top administration officials including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton standing for a 19-gun salute and the national anthems of both nations.
"This is the alliance we renew today, united by the interests we share, grounded in the values we cherish, not just for our time, but for all time," Obama said.
Cameron listed some of the agenda items.
"Whenever an American president and a British prime minister get together, there is a serious and important agenda to work through and today is no different. Afghanistan. Iran. The Arab Spring The need for trade, growth, jobs and the world economy" he said.
Amid concerns in Britain that U.S. focus is drifting toward East Asia, Obama, joined at the welcoming ceremony by first lady Michelle Obama, is seeking to reassure the British leader with a fancy White House dinner and a warm and personal show of support.
Despite the rapid rise of China and other emerging economic powers, Cameron said the U.S. and Britain remain one another's most significant international partners.
"Yes, the world is changing at a faster rate than ever before," he said. "But one thing remains unchanged: the ceaseless back and forth between our two nations of ideas, friendship, business and shared endeavor."
The serious talks follow a more relaxed day in which Obama and Cameron flew to Dayton, Ohio, to watch an NCAA tournament college basketball game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky -- a new experience for the British leader. Obama gave Cameron the royal treatment, inviting him to fly on Air Force One and enjoy a quintessential American tradition.
The attention to Cameron comes at a time of weighty foreign policy challenges. Britain has been an important U.S. ally in Afghanistan and the bombing campaign in Libya that led to the removal of Moammar Gadhafi.
Obama and Cameron will discuss the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits on Wednesday, followed by a state dinner at the White House.
Cameron was welcomed at the White House with all the trappings of a state visit, though it will not be called one, since the British monarch -- not the prime minister -- is considered the head of state.
The lavish welcome was intended to offer thanks for the pageantry during Obama's visit to Britain last May.
The focus for the two leaders Wednesday was expected to fall on the Middle East and Afghanistan. Obama and Cameron are seeking to ramp up pressure on Iran to reverse steps toward acquiring nuclear weapons capability while staving off a military strike from Israel that they fear would have unpredictable repercussions.
In a joint opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Tuesday, Obama and Cameron said they plan to discuss how to handle the resumption of negotiations with Iran.
"We believe that there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution," they wrote.
While Cameron warned last week that "military action against Iran by Israel would not be the right approach," he acknowledged all options remain, including the use of force.
The meeting comes ahead of May's NATO summit in Chicago, where a decision on the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan is expected to be confirmed.
The White House discussions follow the weekend killings of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a lone U.S. soldier, and the deaths of six British troops last week in a roadside bomb blast -- the largest loss of life in a single incident for British forces in Afghanistan since 2006.
Cameron and Obama also will consider how to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, amid the yearlong uprising during which the U.N. estimates his regime has killed over 7,500 people. Britain's ambassador to the U.S., Peter Westmacott, said Obama and Cameron had a strong shared conclusion that military action is not the way to solve the crisis.
During his visit, Cameron also is expected to meet with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker -- but he won't hold talks with any of the Republican presidential candidates.