Washington Barack Obama will spend next week touring the Middle East and Western Europe, a trip that has galvanized much of the world's attention because of his charisma, race and family background and the 180-degree shift he's promising from the Bush administration's foreign policy.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will meet with top leaders of five nations considered key allies of the United States - Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and England - as well as with Palestinian leaders.
Obama foreign-policy advisers said Friday that the central goals of the trip were to exchange views with those leaders; look for ways to enhance cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation, counter-terrorism, energy security and climate change; and underscore shared values.
"It is not our intent to make policy or to negotiate, and we won't do so," senior foreign policy adviser Susan Rice said. "There is one president of the United States at any given time, and we will certainly honor and respect that."
While the tour allows Obama to bond with leaders and discuss common issues, it also will send cues to voters back home.
Aides say that the campaign-funded trip isn't politically motivated. "This is a trip of substance," senior strategist Robert Gibbs said.
But the freshman Democratic senator from Illinois, whom polls show running slightly ahead of Republican John McCain in the race but vulnerable on issues such as national security, will want to show Americans:
¢ That he isn't the foreign policy novice that McCain, an Iraq war supporter and decorated veteran, would have them believe.
¢ That he's committed to Israel, which could help him secure more Jewish support in swing states such as Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
¢ That Muslims and Arabs overseas nevertheless might feel less hostile toward the United States if Obama - a biracial Christian who lived in Indonesia for some of his childhood and whose African father's side of the family is Muslim - is president.
¢ That his popularity in Europe could boost U.S. standing and translate to more cooperation on anti-terrorism, environmental and economic policies.
While Obama also has said that he'll visit Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a congressional delegation, his campaign hasn't released information about those plans, citing security concerns.
Most of next week's announced stops will involve tightly controlled meetings.
He's scheduled to stage one major public appearance, in Berlin, the German city where President John F. Kennedy delivered his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech when it was divided and communism was the enemy.
The trip could pay dividends for Obama's campaign, including keeping thousands of American fans overseas excited about voting by absentee ballot this fall, and, in the meantime, donating.
Obama's candidacy and pending visit have put more focus on blacks and other minority groups in Europe, sparking discussions on whether the political systems in France, England and Germany would allow an Obama to rise to power, and if not, what should change.
And with his trip attracting massive media interest, he may generate lots of news coverage that takes attention away from McCain.
But as Obama makes his way through his itinerary, he and the advisers traveling with him also will be aware of political quicksand.
On the Mideast stops, especially, the more detailed Obama gets, the more that various factions could chafe. He likewise risks criticism if he's seen as too vague when pressed on Iran, Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas, Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and so on.