Romney outlines foreign policy plan

Republican challenger Mitt Romney gained ground on President Barack Obama in their debate over the US economy last week and will be trying to diminish the incumbent's strength in foreign policy with a speech later on Monday.

The address is expected to draw heavy attention abroad after a series of stumbles on issues that signal Mr Romney would vastly overhaul American relations with an increasingly interdependent world.

With the presidential race having grown tighter after a strong Romney performance in the first presidential debate last week, the Republican challenger is now hoping he can narrow Mr Obama's commanding lead in the polls as the candidate best equipped to cope with global upheavals and keep the United States safe from the terrorist threat that was magnified by the September 11, 2001 attacks on American soil.

Mr Obama has been at pains to improve the US image abroad, one that was badly tarnished by the administration of former President George W Bush. American standing, particularly in the Middle East, suffered considerable damage over the US invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Mr Romney has an uphill climb on that front, not so much among his supporters among US voters, who are paying little attention to global affairs in this election, but among countries around the world - both friends and adversaries - who have been stung by the candidate's ill-chosen remarks. Watching closely as well will be some independent voters who may be concerned by the fact that Mr Romney has surrounded himself with a coterie of foreign policy advisers that is made up of many who played critical roles in the neoconservative path taken by former President George W Bush.

Mr Romney finds himself in a bit of a hole after having irritated Britons and Palestinians during a summer tour abroad. What's more, he has declared Russia to be America's No 1 geopolitical foe. Just last week, the Republican candidate raised eyebrows in Spain by holding it up as a prime example of government spending run amok.

That left Spaniards confused, and threatened to reinforce Mr Romney's perceived handicap in international affairs, precisely at a time when lingering questions over the September 11 attacks against the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, have President Obama on the defensive.

"I don't want to go down the path of Spain," Mr Romney said on Wednesday night during the first presidential debate. He argued that government spending under Mr Obama has reached 42% of the US economy, a figure comparable with America's Nato ally. "I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work."

The remark was Mr Romney's latest to cause international offence during a campaign that much of the world is closely monitoring.

US voters and world leaders will also listen for Mr Romney's ideas about preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon. He has declared Tehran would never have such a weapon of mass destruction under his leadership and that it would under a second Obama term. But his policy prescription on the Iran front shows virtually no difference from the path that Mr Obama has followed. And the president, too, insists that the US will never allow the Islamic Republic to achieve nuclear weapons status.