Obama hits back at Euro snub rumours

8th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama addresses whispers in the European press that all was not well with French and German leaders and explains he has a very tough schedule in his global travel.

Washington – US President Barack Obama is hitting back at "very wild" rumours that key US allies like France and Germany feel they are getting short shrift from the breakneck pace of his global travel.

Twice in as many days, Obama had to address whispers in the European press that all was not rosy in his relationships with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Saturday, a reporter asked the president whether Europe was low on his priority list, following newspaper reports he turned down a private dinner with the French president after 65th anniversary D-Day commemorations.

"I have a very tough schedule and I would love nothing more than to have a leisurely week in Paris, stroll down the Seine, take my wife out to a nice meal, have a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens," Obama said, pointing out that he was caught up in dealing with the pressing financial crisis at home.

"Those days are over for the moment," Obama said, but promised to spend more time in France when he is an ex-president.

"I think it's very important to understand that good friends don't worry about the symbols and the conventions and the protocols," Obama said.

"I think you guys are reading too much into my schedule."

Obama was certainly enjoying himself on Saturday night in Paris after returning from Normandy, taking his two young daughters on a tour of Notre Dame cathedral and dining in an up-scale restaurant near the Eiffel Tour.

On Friday, in Germany, at a press conference sandwiched between talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a visit to the former concentration camp at Buchenwald and a trip to see wounded soldiers at a military hospital in Germany, Obama betrayed some of his frustration at the press.

'I think your characterisation of wild speculations is accurate," Obama told a reporter who asked about reports that he was not getting on too well with Merkel.

Local press was speculating on a list of supposed differences from Afghanistan policy to why Merkel and Obama were not having lunch together.

"They are very wild and based on no facts," Obama said.

"Most of the speculation around my schedule here in Germany doesn't take into account simple logistics, travelling, trying to get from one place to the other: coming off a Middle East trip having to go to Normandy ... there are only 24 hours in a day."

"So stop it, all of you," said Obama, with a smiling scold of reporters.

"I know you have to have something to report on but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems."

White House aides, new to the business of world travel with a president, and to the gossipy tone of some foreign press outlets, appear a little mystified at the flurry of speculation that greets Obama's every move.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs last week got riled by a Daily Telegraph report about the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal which the White rejected as untrue.

Some of his anger at the report seemed to date from an earlier showdown with Fleet Street when British hacks accused Obama of snubbing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown by not offering him a full White House press conference. When the White House dismisses the gossip, it may have a point.

It argues that in just over four months in office, Obama has already been to Germany and France, twice each, and met Sarkozy and Merkel several times at major international summits.

By comparison, he is yet to visit Asia, where he is expected later this year.

They also say Obama is packing a lot of business into a compact schedule.

"He has now done four foreign trips, and they are all very robust," said Mark Lippert a deputy national security advisor, referring to visits to Britain, France and Germany, Prague, Turkey, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, and the current swing through Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France.

AFP / Expatica

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