Barack Obama under fire for failure to attend memorial
The Obama administration yesterday admitted that it had made a mistake by not sending a senior representative to Sunday's unity march in Paris.
The admission followed criticism from media pundits and opposition politicians. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, will visit the French capital on Friday.
"I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," said Josh Earnest, spokesman for the White House.
The failure of Mr Obama or of any of the top members of his administration to attend the huge march to honour victims of Islamist militant attacks raised eyebrows.
French President Francois Hollande and some 44 foreign dignitaries, including leaders from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Britain, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories, led up to two million people in what commentators said was the largest crowd in Paris since its liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944. In a damage limitation offensive, Mr Kerry said that US officials, including himself and Mr Obama, had been "deeply engaged" with French authorities almost immediately after the first attack occurred and had offered intelligence assistance.
Addressing criticism about the lack of a senior official at Sunday's march, Mr Kerry said: "I really think that this is sort of quibbling a little bit," noting that the US ambassador to France was there, as were "many people from the (US) embassy".
America was represented 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 US Vice President Joe Biden or Mr Kerry. CNN discussed the issue on its news programming.
Also yesterday, an American "terrorism expert" who claimed that Birmingham is a Muslim-only city was "clearly a complete idiot", according to British Prime Minister David Cameron.
He said he "choked on his porridge" after hearing the claim by Steve Emerson, a Fox News pundit, that non-Muslims "simply don't go" to Britain's second-largest city. Mr Emerson issued a grovelling apology after issuing the claim, Mr Cameron said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)