UPDATE 1-Obama says wants Scotland inside the UK, Britain inside the EU

Thu Jun 5, 2014 1:01pm EDT
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* Obama says wants Britain to be 'united'

* Says it's hard to imagine Britain outside Europe

* Secessionists to Obama: independence is up to Scots (Adds reaction from Scottish nationalist leader)

BRUSSELS, June 5 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Thursday gave the strongest signal yet that the United States wanted to see the United Kingdom remain inside the European Union and Scotland to preserve its 307-year-old union with England.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to try to renegotiate Britain's ties with the EU to claw back a range of powers if re-elected next year and to then give Britons a referendum on whether to remain inside the EU in 2017.

In just over three months, on Sept. 18, another big vote - a referendum in Scotland on whether to break away from the United Kingdom and declare independence - will also be held.

When asked at a G7 news conference in Brussels what the votes in Scotland and Europe meant to him and the people of the United States, Obama said the Scottish vote was for Scots to decide but that the United States wanted a "united" partner.

"From the outside at least it looks like things have worked pretty well and we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner," Obama said.

Polls show Scots are unlikely to vote to leave the UK, with roughly 40 percent against independence and 30 percent in favour. But there are enough undecided Scots to swing the vote.   Continued...