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POLITICS: PennAve

White House week ahead: Obama hosts Francois Hollande, meets the press

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Iran,Syria,PennAve,France,Francois Hollande

President Obama this week will host French President Francois Hollande for a state visit at the White House, a trip meant to highlight a “transformed” alliance between the two nations but one that is being overshadowed by Hollande's personal problems back home.

On Monday, the two leaders will travel to Monticello, the Virginia residence of former President Thomas Jefferson. And the duo penned an op-ed Monday, touting their cooperation on issues ranging from Iran's nuclear ambitions to ending the civil war in Syria.

"A decade ago, few would have imagined our two countries working so closely together in so many ways. But in recent years our alliance has transformed," Obama and Hollande wrote in The Washington Post and Le Monde. "Rooted in a friendship stretching back more than two centuries, our deepening partnership offers a model for international cooperation."

But that message will certainly be eclipsed by other affairs.

Hollande's personal approval ratings have nosedived in France amid reports that he cheated on his long-time partner Valerie Trierweiler with a young movie actress. The former French first lady was invited to the White House but Hollande is traveling solo to Washington after announcing the end of his relationship with Trierweiler.

Obama will likely be asked to address the situation, creating a potentially awkward moment during the glitz-filled visit.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama will hold an arrival ceremony for Hollande Tuesday, to be followed by a bilateral meeting and joint press conference -- it marks the president's first extended press conference since delivering his State of the Union address. The official state dinner with Hollande will take place Tuesday evening.

It’s hardly the first time that the tabloids have followed a French president to Washington. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the White House right after breaking up with his then-wife.

The White House has attempted to deflect questions about Hollande’s personal life, saying the French government was responsible for determining who would participate in the state visit. But the Obama administration can’t seem to escape drama when planning such events.

Last year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a scheduled state visit to the White House because of revelations about National Security Agency surveillance techniques.

The president on Friday will travel to Cambridge, Md., to speak at a conference for House Democrats. Last week, Obama held separate meetings with House and Senate Democrats, part of a ramped-up effort by the White House to leave an imprint on November's midterm elections.

Later Friday, Obama will head to Sunnylands, Calif. for a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

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