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President Obama to visit Sweden in September

US President Barack Obama will visit Sweden in September after ditching plans to head to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Obama to visit Sweden in September

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a US-Russia Summit in early September,” The White House wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

RELATED STORY: ‘Barack Obama needs European friends right now’: Swedish expert

“Russia’s disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship.”

Instead of Moscow, the president will head on his first ever visit to Sweden.

“We’re really excited to have him come to Sweden,” Jeff Anderson, spokesman at the US embassy in Stockholm, told The Local. “We’re looking forward to have him here.”

Obama had intended to meet with Putin in early September, but Russia’s granting of temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has only “worsened relations” between the two countries, according to White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

“We’ll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,” Rhodes said, according to the AP news agency.

The Putin meet up in Moscow was planned to coincide with the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg on September 5th to 6th, which Obama still plans to attend.

Obama had expressed his disappointment with Russia as recently as Tuesday during an interview with US TV host Jay Leno, where the pair discussed Russia’s lack of cooperation with the US over Edward Snowden’s extradition attempts, even though the US does not have an extradition treaty with Russia.

Obama pointed to the Snowden case as being “reflective of some underlying challenges” the US had had with Russia lately, adding, however, that there “hasn’t been major breaks in the relationship”.

The president also took the chance to comment on how the Russians are still engaged in “Cold War thinking”.

“There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do,” he said.

The news was welcomed by Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

“It’s a good chance to discuss the political and economic developments in the world directly with President Obama and it’s a chance to present the Swedish opinions,” he said in a statement.

“I’m looking forward to discussing trade conditions, the need for reforms, and the economic situation in Europe and the world.”

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt took to Twitter to voice his appreciation.

The first, and so far last, time a US president visited Sweden was during the 2001 EU-US summit in Gothenburg, but George W. Bush and his fellow world leaders sparked extensive rioting across the western city – leading the police to detain almost 700 people and to shoot several demonstrators.

The statement issued by the White House confirming the visit referred to Sweden as a “close friend” of the United States, praising the country for “key leadership” on important international issues, including the forging of a new EU-US trade deal.

According to the statement, President Obama will arrive in Stockholm on September 4th and stay overnight before departing on September 5th to the G-20 Summit.

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OBAMA

Obama reveals he wants to work for… Spotify?

Barack Obama may be leaving the White House, but it looks like he's got his future all planned out.

Obama reveals he wants to work for... Spotify?
Barack Obama on a visit to Sweden in 2013. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

One of Obama's favourite trips abroad was his 2013 visit to Sweden, US tech entrepreneur, podcast editor and former The Local blogger Natalia Brzezinski has revealed the president told her.

She and her husband Mark Brzezinski, who was the US ambassador to Sweden 2011-2015, were invited to the White House on Wednesday evening along with other diplomats appointed by Obama.

“I finally got the chance to thank him for the life-changing appointment to Sweden,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.

“He said word for word: 'I loved visiting you in Stockholm, it was my favourite trip. I plan to go back there really soon'.”

Obama went to Stockholm on an official state visit in 2013. And Brzezinski, the CEO of creative tech festival Symposium Stockholm, revealed she tried to tempt him back to attend its Brilliant Minds conference in June.

He did not promise anything, but did at least urge Brzezinski to “send him the details”.

Obama leaves his post on January 20th, handing over the reins to Republican president-elect Donald Trump. As for the outgoing president's future, it looks like he's got his heart set on a certain Swedish music streaming giant.

“I'm still waiting for my job at Spotify‚Ķ 'cause I know y'all loved my playlist,” Brzezinski quoted him as saying.

We are pretty sure he was joking, but it is not the first time Obama has praised Sweden.

Former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt revealed in an interview last year that the US president had told him on his visit to Stockholm that he would love to return again with his family.

“Shortly thereafter I met Michelle and Barack Obama again in New York and Michelle confirmed that Barack talked to her about it after his visit to Stockholm. I said I hoped they would find time to return after his presidency,” Reinfeldt told the Aftonbladet tabloid in September.