Obama 'slips' into town

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Despite their best efforts it was difficult for gawkers to even catch a glimpse of US President Barack Obama as he arrived in Oslo for a hectic day of Nobel Peace Prize festivities. His massive motorcade headed quickly into town where he was driven up to the back entrance of the Nobel Institute, all but ruling out photos of his arrival. Helicopters whirring overhead drowned out what broadcasters tried to report from the site, but a few were briefly allowed inside.

They were permitted to watch Obama and his wife Michelle sign the guest book at the Nobel Institute, which contains the signatures and messages of Nobel Peace Prize winners over the years. The quiet ceremony took place with members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee standing behind Obama in the institute’s small but historic meeting room.

Obama was greeted at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, the US Ambassador to Norway Barry B White and Kaci Kullmann Five, a former government minister and member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.From there he was driven to the cordoned-off Nobel Institute on the outskirts of downtown for a brief meeting with the committee before heading for the government complex in the heart of the city for a half-hour meeting with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The Norwegian prime minister had been planning for weeks how to best use his allotted time with Obama and newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday that he intended to focus on issues related to the far northern areas, where conflicts can loom over fishing and oil and gas exploration rights, defense cooperation and territory as the ice melts and makes the Arctic Sea bigger.

Joining Stoltenberg around the table with Obama were Foreign Minister Støre, Minister of the Environment and Foreign Aid Erik Solheim, Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen and Defense Minister Grete Faremo.

They also discussed the Middle East conflict, the war in Afghanistan, where Norway has around 500 troops on duty for NATO, and climate change. “There will be no agreement (on climate change) without the US,” Stoltenberg said, who later announced that Norway would boost its financial contribution in Afghanistan to USD 110 million.

He noted that he’s had a few other opportunities for one-on-one talks with Obama, most recently at a NATO meeting and over a dinner in New York when the United Nations opened its general assembly in September.

“We have an ongoing dialogue,” Stoltenberg said, describing Obama as informal, brave and a good discussion partner.