US & Canada

Five things we learned from Obama interview

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Jon Sopel of BBC in the Roosevelt Room of the White House - 23 July 2015 Image copyright Amanda Lucidon

President Barack Obama sat down with the BBC's North America editor, Jon Sopel, to discuss Britain's role in the world, his upcoming trip to Africa, and Mr Obama's plans for his remaining time in the White House.

Below are some of the biggest takeaways from the BBC's exclusive interview.


At the beginning of his presidency, there was talk that the much-vaunted "special relationship" between the US and UK had grown cold. But almost eight years later, the loving feeling has certainly returned (if in fact it ever left), with Mr Obama praising the "outstanding partner" he has in UK Prime Minister David Cameron. He was insistent the UK had a vital role to play in both the European Union and the fight to stabilise Syria.

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Media caption"Great Britain has always been our best partner"


"We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things." So says William Ruto, the deputy president in Kenya - hardly the kind of talk that would fly in the US, where the right to marriage was recently extended to gay Americans across the country. But Obama says he has no tolerance for intolerance, and will push a more inclusive agenda on his trip.

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Media caption"I'm not a fan of discrimination of anybody on the basis of sexual orientation or gender"


Mr Obama scored a victory when the US struck a nuclear deal with Iran, but finding neutral ground with Tehran might have been the easy part. Now he has to get Republicans in Congress on board with the plan. His critics say lifting sanctions will result in more money flowing to Hezbollah and the Assad regime, further destabilising the region. But Mr Obama says Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has incentive to modernise the economy.

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Media captionMr Obama discusses the economic consequences of the Iran nuclear deal


The tail-end of Mr Obama's presidency has brought a looser, more candid commander-in-chief. Witness his last press conference, where he virtually dared reporters to ask him tough questions about the Iran deal. With the BBC, he openly discussed the biggest frustration of his presidency - his inability to pass any gun control reform.

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Media captionGun control is the "biggest frustration' of his presidency"


When Mr Obama sang Amazing Grace on a stage full of black ministers at the funeral for one of the victims of the Charleston shootings, jokes flew on Twitter that he had achieved a "peak black" moment. It was a long time coming for many who hoped to see Mr Obama more fully engage with issues of racism during his presidency. But with little over a year left in office, he has been more assertive about dealing with race relations - and says the country has evolved on race since he moved into the White House.

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Media captionListen to Barack Obama talk about race and his presidency

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