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Friday, 10 April 2009

UK Counter-Terrorism Action Echoes Barack Obama on Pakistan at the G20 London Summit

In the ongoing counter-terrorism operation by UK police, out of 12 men arrested, eleven are Pakistani nationals. Though at this stage no charges have been brought, just one week ago I was at Barack Obama’s press conference at the G20 London Summit after he had met with the Indian Prime Minister and a question on this subject was put to him.

What wasn’t reported at the time was that both Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh, in a planned operation, were asked the same question by representatives of the same internet outlet, Timesnow.tv, in their separate press conferences. Each leader was asked about the meeting he had had with the other, and both Obama and Singh were asked about their conclusions specifically relating to terrorism ‘Emanating from Pakistan.’
Barack Obama gave an answer lasting just under four minutes, while Manmohan Singh’s was considerably shorter and delivered with less humour.

Unlike Gordon Brown, Barack Obama chose his own questioners apart from those who were already written down on a list he had. Chuck Todd sat at the front with other American reporters, and I noticed Justin Webb was deep in whispered conversation with Mark Austin for a while before Obama stepped on stage. From my seat in the front row, I observed that the President’s trousers were a bit crumpled; I guess he had been sitting down in meetings much of the day.

David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs watched from the side of the stage, they seemed like happy schoolboys, and both were scrolling on their Blackberry devices during the press conference.

The standout moment for me was when Barack Obama called out for Chip Reid to ask his question, and when Chip stood up, Obama said ‘Chip, my heart goes out to you.’ Very few of us knew why he said this. While Chip accepted the President’s condolences and got through his question, I noticed his voice breaking towards the end and concluded that he must have suffered a personal tragedy. After Obama left, a couple of the Americans gave Chip a hug, and later on I found out that Reid’s father had passed away that morning.

For an instant, Obama didn't appear to care whether the rest of the room knew what he was talking about, what seemed important to him was a personal and private moment shared between two men in a room filled with 800 international media people.

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