Wednesday 21 February 2018

Presidents chew the fat

Obama and Medvedev break off talks and head out for a hamburger

Roger Runningen in Washington

There was no confining President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to a formal White House luncheon.

After their ice-breaking meeting during which a range of pressing international issues were discussed there was only going to be one thing on the menu -- where to get a decent burger.

Without further ado, Presidents Obama and Medvedev, accompanied by their entourages, took a six-minute motorcade drive to the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia, home to Ray's Hell Burger, before their joint news conference.

Then two of the most powerful men in the world, joined by their two translators, ate their hamburgers at a table in the restaurant surrounded by the regular lunch crowd who munched on despite the presence of their highly irregular guests.

Mr Obama had a cheddar cheese burger with onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles, washed down with an iced tea. Mr Medvedev had a cheddar cheese burger with onions, jalapeno peppers and mushrooms, and a Coca-Cola.

Mr Medvedev was in Washington for talks with President Obama. The two leaders and members of their staffs spent about two hours meeting at the White House earlier.

Mr Obama was also anxious to assure voters that the US will "not miss a beat" in the Afghan war effort because of the change in command.

A day after accepting General Stanley McChrystal's resignation and replacing him with General David Petraeus, Mr Obama said: "General Petraeus understands the strategy because he helped shape it."

He also said the July 2011 date to begin withdrawing US troops did not mean the US would be "switching off the lights and closing the door behind us" at that time.

Twitter

Referring to his meeting with Mr Medvedev, Mr Obama said they had instructed their negotiators to resolve technical issues by this autumn to clear the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Medvedev, addressing reporters with Mr Obama at a later White House news conference, said he hoped work on Russia's WTO membership would be finalised by the end of September.

President Obama also suggested that Twitter accounts might eliminate the need for dedicated "red" phone lines between Russian and US leaders in the future.

In a lighthearted moment, Mr Obama suggested that Mr Medvedev use the popular social networking site. Mr Obama said: "We may be able to finally throw away those red phones" -- that allowed immediate contact between the Kremlin and the White House during the Cold War.

In a separate development yesterday, a US judge refused to put on hold his decision that blocked the Obama administration from enforcing a six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Irish Independent

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