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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Obama to hold state dinner for Merkel

President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel greeted reporters after dining at a restaurant Monday night.Angela Merkel will receive the nation's highest civilian honorThe trip comes despite policy differences between the two countriesMerkel and Obama dined privately Monday night

Washington (CNN) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a state dinner on Tuesday, a big honor for a U.S. ally who differs at times with the Obama administration.

Merkel, 56, dined privately with President Barack Obama at a Georgetown restaurant on Monday night before a day of official business that culminates with the evening of White House pomp and ceremony, including her getting the nation's highest civilian honor.

If Obama has any hard feelings over Germany's abstention on the U.N. Security Council vote for establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, they appear to be buried, at least for now.

"I'm sure they will discuss the range of foreign policy issues that are out there that are of common interest to both countries," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday. "I think, again, the relationship is important. The cooperation is excellent."

The tone was different in April, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in a speech in Germany that "the world did not wait for another Srebrenica in a place called Benghazi," referring to the site of a Bosnian massacre and the Libyan rebel stronghold that was under siege by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Carney said Monday that he also expected the two leaders to discuss efforts to bolster recovery from the global recession, noting "it is an issue that both are addressing in different ways."

Germany continues to expand its trade surplus with record exports, causing critics to complain it should boost domestic consumption to ease the imbalance as part of global efforts to quicken recovery from the recession.

Merkel advocates tough austerity measures for European Union colleagues, and recently decided to close all of Germany's nuclear power plants in coming years in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Obama, facing a tough political fight over Republican demands to shrink the government to reduce the federal deficit and national debt, calls for continued investment in education, infrastructure and clean energy while cutting wasteful spending and raising taxes on the wealthy.

His administration proposes a broad energy policy that increases domestic oil production as well as nuclear power while pushing to develop solar and wind energy production to compete in a growing global market.

Carney was able to clear up one question about Merkel's trip. Because Merkel is a head of government, rather than a head of state, the trip is labeled an official visit, though the Tuesday night gathering is a state dinner, Carney explained.


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