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Obama to meet French presidents, past and present, on Paris trip

Jim Watson, AFP | Barack Obama's visit to the French capital will reunite him with former French president François Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, two years after they paid their respects to the victims of the 2015 Paris attacks.

Former US President Barack Obama is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and his predecessor, François Hollande, on Saturday as he wraps up a five-day global tour with a speech to elite opinion-makers in Paris.

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Obama was due to have lunch with Macron at the Elysée Palace –- in a “private capacity”, the French presidency said –- before addressing a network of communications professionals known as the Napoleons.

Meetings with Hollande and the Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, were also on the agenda.

The former US leader, who visited Beijing and New Delhi this week, had stood alongside Hollande and Hidalgo two years ago during a memorial ceremony for the victims of the November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in the French capital.

During his visit on Saturday, he is expected to discuss efforts to uphold the Climate Agreement that was signed in Paris later that year -– but which his successor, Donald Trump, has pulled out of.

Obama’s visit comes as Macron pursues a tricky diplomatic strategy with Trump, whom he hosted as the guest of honour at the Bastille Day celebrations this year in an unsuccessful bid to change his mind on climate.

Macron and Trump are also at odds on the issue of the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, which the French leader wants to save.

Macron, 39, sought to channel Obama's "hope and change" message during his campaign for the presidency, focusing on mobilising grassroots support for his upstart centrist movement En Marche ! (On the Move!).

Obama gave his official backing to Macron in an online video in May, three days before the second round of the election in which Macron roundly beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

His speech in Paris on Saturday is a major coup for the Napoleons, a little-known industry group founded just four years ago, which describes itself as an “innovative communications network”.

An elite club, the Napoleons aims to bring together innovation-minded players from the business, media and culture sectors. Prior to Obama, its most prominent guest was another former president, Hollande.

Obama’s appearance has been preceded by a controversy involving his purported 400,000-euro ($477,000) fee.

Stéphane Richard, the prominent CEO of telecoms group Orange, which is sponsoring the event, has denied media reports his company is footing the bill in a bid to raise his profile and boost his chances of extending his mandate.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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