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Obama to hold talks with Hollande in Russia

The Syria crisis looks likely to top the agenda at this week's G20 meeting in Russia. The White House announced on Wednesday that US President Barack Obama will hold crucial talks with President François Hollande during the summit.

Obama to hold talks with Hollande in Russia
Obama and Hollande set to discuss Syria in Moscow this week. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

US President Barack Obama will hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of France and China on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Russia, a White House official said Wednesday.

"While in Russia for the G20, the President will hold bilateral meetings with President Xi (Jinping) of China and President [François] Hollande of France," the official said, ahead of the summit likely to be dominated by the crisis in Syria.

Although no formal bilateral meeting was planned with Russian President Vladimir Putin, "we would expect the two presidents to have an opportunity to speak on the margins of the various meetings of the G20," the official said.

Putin has been a vocal critic of the West's policies on Syria and has expressed strong doubt that the Syrian regime was behind an alleged chemical attack on August 21st that has prompted the plan for US-led military action.

The G20 summit comes at a time of increasingly tense relations between Washington and Moscow after the US cancelled a planned bilateral summit in Moscow due to the row over US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Kremlin, peeved by the snub, said there was no time to pencil in a summit bilateral with the US leader at the G20.

China, a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, has said it is opposed to "bilateral military action" in Syria and has called for a "political solution" to the crisis.

In contrast, Hollande has urged France's European Union partners to unite in response to the Syria crisis, as Paris pushes for punitive military strikes against the regime.

The annual meeting of the world's top 20 developed and emerging nations kicks off on Thursday in Saint-Petersburg.

The host nation is hoping to push forward an agenda to stimulate growth but world leaders are bound to be distracted by divisions on the prospect of US-led military action in Syria.

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OBAMA

Barack Obama to meet Macron for ‘private’ lunch during weekend in Paris

Former US president Barack Obama will be in Paris this weekend where he will be treated to a lunch with President Emmanuel Macron. The event will be low key so as not to cheese off Donald Trump.

Barack Obama to meet Macron for 'private' lunch during weekend in Paris
Obama had backed Macron for president. AFP
The lunch at Macron's Elysee Palace residence — in a “private” capacity, the presidency said Thursday — will come as Obama visits Paris to speak to Les Napoleons, a network of communications professionals.
 
Obama, who publicly endorsed Macron during his election campaign, will arrive in Paris on Friday where he is due to make an appearance at the bi-annual “Napoleons” summit as the special guest.
 
He will give a speech at the Radio France auditorium. 
 
Macron has invited him for lunch on Saturday although the venue remains a secret. The lunch meeting has not been announced officially as the Elysée Palace are apparently concerned about irritating current US president Donald Trump, who they fear may take offence.
 
It is unlikely Obama will be given the same treatment Trump was given during his summer visit to Paris, when he and his wife Melania were wined and dined at the Jules Verne restaurant on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.
 
Trump however has not been invited to the December 12 climate summit in Paris, unlike 100 other leaders, and Macron has also said he wants to save the Iranian nuclear deal despite Trump's opposition.
 
Last time Obama was in Paris in December 2015 he dined with then French president François Hollande at L'Ambroisie, a restaurant with three Michelin stars in the swanky Place des Vosges square.
 
Hollande treats Obama to three-star French cuisine
 
He had apparently asked Hollande if they could eat out rather than at the Elysée Palace.
 
Obama is also due to meet Hollande during his latest trip to Paris but not his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.