Sydney Morning Herald

By Phillip Coorey

Plans are proceeding for Barack Obama's visit to Australia next month despite the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico emerging as the next crisis of the US President's short tenure. Mr Obama, pictured with his daughter Malia, is scheduled to arrive with his family around June 18, although neither the Australian nor the US governments have confirmed that.

The trip includes Indonesia and was scheduled for March but was postponed because Mr Obama needed to stay in Washington to help steer his health reform legislation through Congress.

He is now under intense domestic political pressure over the leak in the Gulf, which is belching up to 19,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea. The company responsible, BP, is trying to seal the leak but it will not know until this weekend whether its trying to plug it with mud will work. Should the leak be uncapped by the time Mr Obama is scheduled to leave, it could result in him having to postpone again.

Mr Obama said the spill was the first thing he thought about when he woke up and the last before he went to sleep.

The chief executive of the United States studies centre at the University of Sydney, Geoff Garrett, was confident the President's visit would go ahead. ''Does Obama want to do this visit to Australia and Indonesia? The answer has got to be yes,'' he said.

A government spokesman said visit preparations were continuing.

A Liberal pamphlet released yesterday ridicules the Prime Minister over his relationship with his ''buddy Barack Obama''.