Brown receives the call every politician wanted

Gordon Brown became the first European leader to receive a phone call from President Barack Obama yesterday, an important signal that the alliance with George Bush over Iraq has not damaged the "special relationship".

The 15-minute telephone conversation between the two men was "friendly and substantive" said Downing Street. It ranged from the deteriorating global economy to the Middle East and the crisis in Zimbabwe. After congratulating Mr Obama, Mr Brown and the US President also chatted about personal matters including their families.

Mr Brown was determined to receive the first phone call from the Oval Office, at least before Angela Merkel of Germany or Nicolas Sarkozy of France. President Sarkozy is tipped to be honoured with the first invitation to the White House for a European leader. But Mr Obama's first visit to Europe should take him to London in early April to attend the second G20 special summit meeting on the global financial crisis. He is then expected to visit Strasbourg and the German town of Kehl to attend a Nato summit marking the organisation's 50th anniversary.

It is already clear that Mr Obama intends to use his enormous global popularity to undo some of the damage caused by Mr Bush's preference for military might over diplomacy. His first international phone calls on Wednesday were to Middle East leaders.