Obama arrives for Americas summit

Updated: 2012-04-14 10:13


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CARTAGENA, Colombia - US President Barack Obama arrived here on Friday afternoon for the sixth Summit of the Americas, to be held in this Caribbean resort city over the weekend.

The president was met at the airport by a military band and honor guard wearing white uniforms, and reporters saw onlookers almost all the way along the motorcade route to the hotel.

Obama arrives for Americas summit

US President Barack Obama is accompanied by Colombia's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Monica Lanzetta (L), as he arrives for the Americas Summit at the airport in Cartagena, April 13, 2012. Heads of state meet at the summit from April 14 to 15. [Photo/Agencies] 

The two-day summit will bring together leaders of 33 countries in the Western Hemisphere to discuss regional issues of common interest, with the theme of "Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity."

Apart from participation in summit meetings and leaders' discussions, Obama is also scheduled to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and join an Entrepreneurial Summit.

Calling the trip an "important" one as the hemisphere is a destination of over 40 percent of US exports, White House officials said Obama will seek to boost trade and investment as well as advance security and democracy in the region.

Obama originally planned to arrive in Cartagena on Saturday, but later decided to come one day earlier and extend his stay in Colombia to three days.

The Colombian government, while announcing Obama's travel plan on Tuesday, called the change a "very positive development" for both the Americas summit and the host country.

The gathering is likely to be a difficult one for Obama, because of growing assertiveness of the region's powers, who are pushing for a full re-admission of Cuba to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Cuba has been shut out from the summit for the sixth time, as Washington opposed on the grounds of the Caribbean island nation not being a democracy.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 at the height of the Cold War. The suspension was officially lifted in 2009, but the country has chosen not to return to the pan-American bloc.