| 3.5°C Dublin

missing OBAMA is slammed for 'letting world down'

The absence of President Barack Obama or any top members of his administration from a huge march in Paris on Sunday to honour victims of Islamist militant attacks has been criticised by some in the US media.

French president Francois Hollande and 44 foreign dignitaries including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and leaders from Germany, Italy, Britain, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories led up to two million people in what commentators said was the biggest crowd in Paris since its liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944.

Islamist militants killed 17 people, including journalists and police, in three days of attacks in the French capital last week.

The United States was represented at Sunday's march by its ambassador to France, Jane Hartley.

But commentators on some US media outlets questioned why Mr Obama did not attend or send a top administration official such as Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry.


Mr Kerry was in India for a previously scheduled visit.

Attorney General Eric Holder met with European security counterparts in Paris to discuss ways to prevent violent extremism, but did not attend the march.

The New York Daily News carried a front page yesterday dominated by a picture of the march and the headline "You let the world down".

CNN discussed the issue on its news programming.

Fareed Zakaria, who hosts a public affairs programme on the network, said the absence of senior US officials was a mistake.

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted: "This is really embarrassing - WHERE IS PRESIDENT OBAMA? Why didn't he go?"

"Sad that 50 world leaders could show solidarity in Paris but President Obama refused to participate. The cowardice continues," tweeted Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Mr Obama on Friday pledged US support for France, saying: "I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow."

A spokesperson said the president will be holding a global security meeting in Washington next month to discuss domestic and international efforts to counteract violent extremism.

Mr Kerry told a news conference that he and the president were "deeply engaged" with French authorities almost immediately after the first attack occurred and had offered intelligence assistance.

When asked about criticism about the march, he added: "I really think that this is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched.

"I would have personally very much wanted to have been there but couldn't do so because of the commitment that I had here and it is important to keep these kinds of commitments."

Mr Kerry will arrive in Paris on Thursday after stops in Sofia, Bulgaria and Geneva, Switzerland.

One French TV commentator said the president's visit would have been unthinkable given the level of security that accompanies him.

French news channels have prominently featured Mr Obama's expressions of solidarity with France, as well as Mr Kerry's remarks in French last week condemning the attacks.