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Obama's absence from summit 'no slight to Spain'

Wed 3rd Feb 2010

Senior U.S. diplomat Arturo Valenzuela said that his country "values cooperation with Spain extraordinarily," despite President Barack Obama's decision to skip May's U.S.-European Union summit in Madrid.

The government in Washington announced this Monday that Obama will not be going to Spain to take part in the annual EU-U.S. summit, though the Spanish government had been expecting the U.S. president to attend.

Speaking Tuesday in Madrid at the conference "Strengthening Transatlantic Integration: Latin America, Spain and the United States," the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs said he does not know the reasons behind Obama's decision.

"I was on a plane flying to Madrid when the announcement was made. So I'm unaware of why the White House took the decision in this case," Valenzuela said.

"The United States values cooperation with Spain extraordinarily, not only in regional matters that's why I'm here in Spain this week, to discuss Ibero-American subjects but we also value the cooperation the U.S. has with Spain in other spheres," he said in reply to reporters' questions.

The assistant secretary of state said that "President Obama has probably traveled to Europe more than any other U.S. president in living memory."

"What I want to reiterate," he said, "is that he values relations with Spain enormously, he values relations with the European Union enormously."

In that regard, Valenzuela recalled that Spain's King Juan Carlos "has a visit to Washington on Feb. 17," and that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is traveling this week to the U.S. capital to take part Thursday in the National Prayer Breakfast.

The Spanish government, currently invested with the rotating presidency of the European Union, plans to hold the EU-U.S. summit in Madrid at the end of May.

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