Stoltenberg meets Obama
Jens Stoltenberg’s dream for the past 11 years, to meet with a U.S. president, finally came true: U.S. President Barack Obama greeted him in front of the world’s most famous fireplace in the Oval Office.
And what a welcome: Obama boasted of Norway’s efforts in Libya – on the same day as Libya’s notorious dictator Muhamma Gaddafi was killed. And he delivered an equally unrestrained celebration of how Norway as a people had tackled the terrorist attacks of July 22.
“Their [Norway’s] participation in the humanitarian missions, protecting civilians….made an enormous difference. I began the meeting by thanking the people of Norway, the Norwegian military, and the Prime Minister for their leadership in helping to give Libya the opportunity to become a democracy,” said Obama to the press.
As a school boy who has been praised by a teacher, Obama’s praise gave Stoltenberg pink cheeks as well as a little sweat on his forehead – and he clearly enjoyed every minute. He even laid his glasses on the table beside him. The prime minister and Obama clearly enjoyed each other’s company. They even wore identical shoes.
For nearly ten minutes Stoltenberg could sit and listen to Obama talk about the unique relationship between Norway and the United States.
The lack of difficult cases in Norway, and recent information that suggests Stoltenberg had a telephone conversation with President Bush has meant that the invitation from the White House has been long in coming. There have been not been anything terribly important to talk about.
That changed on July 22. And it changed with Norway’s efforts in Libya, which have been far more extensive than our population would suggest. That also Obama emphasized clearly in front of the fireplace.
Neither Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush nor Obama invited Stoltenberg to the White House; while his predecessor Kjell Magne Bondevik had come three times.
For Stoltenberg, this has been quite embarrassing for some time. Heads of state from around the world have come and gone to and frm the White House for years.
Finally, Obama said that he hoped to be visited by Stoltenberg. In addition, he said that after visiting Norway in 2009, when he came to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he had had such a brilliant time that he wanted to come back.
“I hope I can visit Norway again soon,” said Obama in 2009.
When asked if meeting Obama at the White House is the fulfillment of a long-time dream, Stoltenberg responded:
“That is not what matters here. This is a matter of debate and of discussing politics, about the important issues for Norway. Whether it’s financial crisis, Libya, terrorist attacks on Norway, Norwegian purchase of aircraft, maternal mortality, the polar regions, global warming or Afghanistan. Remember also that I have met him in Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris and New York before.”
When Stoltenberg met with Norwegian journalists immediately after the meeting was over, he was clearly touched, and had tears in his eyes when he talked about the “sympathy, warmth and support” that Obama had expressed directly to the victims of the crimes on Utøya and in the government quarter.
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