Obama takes flak for missing solidarity rally

Obama takes flak for missing solidarity rally

WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama faced sharp criticism from some quarters in America yesterday, over his conspicuous absence from a huge Paris solidarity rally in the wake of deadly Islamist attacks.

"You let the world down," blared the front page of the New York Daily News.

Some 56 world leaders - including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, King Abdullah of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu - travelled to Paris on Sunday to join millions in a march in support of the victims killed during the three bloody days in France.

But America's leaders were not among the world leaders who walked arm-in-arm at the head of the procession in Paris, not Mr Obama, not Vice-President Joe Biden, nor any US political leaders.

Attorney-General Eric Holder was in Paris to attend a meeting of interior ministers to discuss security issues, but he did not walk with the world leaders.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was on a visit to India.

Washington was represented by the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley.

"As an American, I do wish that we were better represented in this beautiful procession," said CNN's Jake Tapper from the rally in Paris.

Fareed Zakaria, who hosts a public affairs programme on the network, said the absence of senior US officials was a mistake.

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted: "This is really embarrassing - WHERE IS PRESIDENT OBAMA? Why didn't he go?"

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives tweeted: "Sad that 50 world leaders could show solidarity in Paris, but President Obama refused to participate. The cowardice continues."

The media noted that Mr Obama and Mr Biden had no events on their public schedule for the day.

Yesterday, Mr Kerry announced that he would visit France later this week and dismissed criticism of the Obama administration.

"This is sort of quibbling," he told reporters in India.

"The relationship with France is not about one day or one particular moment," said the US diplomat.

"We have offered, from the first moment, our intel (intelligence), our law enforcement and all of our efforts."

Political-insider magazine Politico wrote a story about the administration missing the rally under the headline: "Barack Obama's French kiss-off."

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