British prime minister: I’ll work with whoever US elects

Updated

British Prime Minister David Cameron steered clear of jumping into the American presidential election, saying it was in his country’s best interest to work with whoever wins. But, he acknowledged he holds America’s current leader in very high esteem.

“I work very closely with President Obama. I admire him a huge amount and I enjoy working with him,” Cameron told TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

Cameron also called Obama’s rival, Mitt Romney, “a very capable man.” The Republican presidential hopeful ruffled feathers last week while in London when he questioned whether Brits were prepared to host the Olympics, citing potential security concerns he witnessed as “disconcerting.”

Cameron told Lauer he plans to cooperate with whoever wins the November contest.

“I will work with whoever the American people elect as your president, and I will be straight in there wanting to work with you because we’ve got so many things we need to do together,” he said.

He acknowledged it helps to have personal chemistry between leaders.

“You want to have a personal relationship because you’re talking about some deep problems, you’re talking about some big challenges and you want to have trust,” he said.

Trust proved to be critical during Cameron’s discussion Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two had a “frank conversation” over the best way to curb the escalating violence in Syria.

Russia has been criticized for refusing to back a United Nations resolution last month intended to get Syrian President Bashar al Assad to resign.

“The best interest of the Syrian people cannot be best provided by Assad staying in place. We need to turn the pressure valve up,” Cameron said. However, he admitted that “the Russians aren’t at that place yet.”

The British and Russian leaders met as news emerged that Kofi Annan, the U.N. special envoy to Syria, had quit.

Cameron said he opposes military action in Syria, but “we should send a very clear warning to the Syrian leadership that if they on any scale use chemical or biological weapons, very severe consequences could follow.”

After their meeting, Cameron and Putin took in an Olympic judo competition. It was a chance for the prime minister to lift the so-called “Cameron curse.” Wags have noted that British athletes always appear to lose every time he appears at a game.

But Cameron noted that Brit Gemma Gibbons earned a silver medal in the judo match they watched. Although she lost the gold to American Kayla Harrison, Gibbons defeated Audrey Tcheumeo of France to secure the second spot on the medals podium.

“I’m not sure it was ever there in the first place,” he said of the curse. “But I want to be there to cheer on some of our athletes and do what I can to support them.”

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David Cameron, Olympics, Sports, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama

British prime minister: I'll work with whoever US elects

Updated