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Obama and Cameron vow to help France defeat 'terror'
[WASHINGTON] US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed on Friday to help France and others defeat the threat of global terrorism with stronger cooperation and surveillance.
In his first meeting with a foreign leader since last week's extremist attacks in Paris, Mr Obama reaffirmed Washington's close ties with its "indispensable ally" Britain and vowed both would support France.
"I know David joins me when I say that we will continue to do everything in our power to help France seek the justice that is needed... to defeat these terrorist networks," Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama said the Paris attacks "underscored how terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL are actively trying to inspire and support people within our own countries to engage in terrorism." Both leaders had warm words for France, but Mr Obama warned Paris must not simply respond to the attacks with a security crackdown but should also learn to better integrate its Muslim minority.
"Our biggest advantage, major, is that our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans and there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition," he said.
"There are parts of Europe in which that's not the case ... it's important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems." He said the United States would hold a summit in February on countering violent extremism and the threat of radicalized Islamist fighters returning to their home countries from the war in Syria.
"David and the United Kingdom continue to be strong partners in this work, including sharing intelligence and strengthening border security," he said, expressing personal friendship with his guest.
The pair held a joint news conference in the White House after two days of detailed talks in Washington.
Mr Cameron said: "This morning, we have agreed to establish a joint group to identify what more we can do to counter the rise of domestic violent extremism and to learn from one another."
The British leader described the jihadist movements that inspired the Paris attackers a "poisonous, fanatical death cult." The United States and Britain already cooperate closely in global electronic surveillance, and Cameron said the two leaders had agreed to deepen their cooperation on cyber-security.
The pair issued a strong warning to Russia over what they said was its aggression in Ukraine, saying that sanctions would continue.
"Russia has chosen to trample over the affairs of a sovereign state. This threatens our stability and our prosperity," Cameron said, in a tacit measure to nervous Western allies in Europe.
"It is important that every country understands that and that no-one in Europe forgets our history. We cannot walk on by." And both leaders warned the US Congress not to threaten tougher sanctions against Iran while negotiators attempt to strike a deal to rein in its nuclear program.
Mr Obama said Iran was already chafing under existing sanctions and had not accelerated its programme and that he would strongly urge Congress not to torpedo the ongoing talks with Tehran.
"We'll see how persuasive I am. But if I'm not persuading Congress, I promise you, I'm going to be taking my case to the American people on this," he warned.
In a separate statement, the White House said the US National Security Agency and FBI would form a joint cyber-security cell with British domestic intelligence MI5 and eavesdropping agency GCHQ.
This will speed intelligence sharing and strengthen the allies' defenses against cyber-attacks from foreign governments and criminals, the leaders said.
The partners will begin their reinforced cooperation with a year-long exercise to test and strengthen the defenses of the financial sector.
In recent weeks Washington has been embarrassed by the seizure of a military Twitter account by jihadist sympathisers and angered by North Korea's alleged hacking of Hollywood studio Sony.
But trans-Atlantic partnership has also had successes.
A young hacker - suspected of taking part in attacks that shut down online gaming platforms over Christmas - was arrested on Friday in a joint operation with the FBI and British police.
Mr Obama, 53, is beginning his last two years in office, while Mr Cameron, 48, is preparing for general elections in May that are expected to be very close and could mark the end of his coalition government.