barack obama.jpg

US President Barack Obama praised the relationship between the US and five Nordic allies during a state visit on Friday, saying the world would be a better place with more countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.

"Around the world America's closest partners are democracies and we only need to look at our Nordic friends to see why," Obama said, praising them for their commitment to human rights, global engagement and strong social safety nets.

Obama was hosting five Nordic leaders at the White House on Friday for talks on issues including climate change, counterterrorism efforts and the European refugee crisis.

Obama welcomed Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigurour Ingi Johannsson at a pomp-filled welcome ceremony.

The formal welcome of the leaders was moved indoors due to weeks of rain in Washington, and Obama joked that the lack of sunshine was something the leaders were accustomed to for weeks on end in the northern nations.

He will also host a rare joint state dinner for the guests Friday evening.

The leaders of Norway and Finland thanked Obama for leading international action on climate change, a major point of discussion during the talks Friday.

"We are grateful for the leadership the US has shown in combating the most existential threat in the world, that is climate change, and for focusing attention in the Arctic where we are pratically neighbours," said Niinisto.

Solberg said US efforts were key in reaching the international climate agreement in Paris last year, noting "US leadership is needed in ensuring the future of the planet."

The leaders also called for joint action on trade, as the US and European Union negotiate a free trade deal, and for security cooperation through NATO in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

"These are all countries that the United States has important working relationships with," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, noting the visit provided an opportunity for Obama to repay the leaders for hosting him in Europe.

The White House also noted the nations' involvement in the fight against Islamic State and the effort by many to host refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Obama will discuss the impact of the refugee crisis on national politics in those countries and "encourage them as they offer up that much-needed humanitarian relief," Earnest said.

Despite the countries' relatively small size, Obama views them as “punching above their weight," and Earnest dismissed any suggestion that hosting the leaders as a group rather than individually could be seen as a snub.

Related stories

Latest news

No early parliamentary election in Serbia this year - media

There will be no early parliamentary election in Serbia this year, electronic media in Belgrade said on Sunday.

Full list of 2017 Oscar winners

A list of winners at the 89th Academy Awards:

"Moonlight" wins best picture after on-stage Oscars mixup

The coming-of-age drama about an African American boy growing up gay in a poor neighbourhood in Miami was made for just 1.5 million dollars. Its director and co-writer, Barry Jenkins, hadn't made a film in years. And it was up for the best picture prize against "La La Land," the smash hit musical that tied the record for Oscar nominations this year.

Emma Stone is best actress in winning night for 'La La Land'

Emma Stone won the best actress Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards for her role in the movie musical "La La Land" on Sunday.

Casey Affleck wins best actor at Oscars

Casey Affleck won the best actor trophy at the Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday for his portrayal of a taciturn janitor with a troubled past in "Manchester by the Sea."

Thousands of Romanians revive anti-government protests

Thousands of Romanians turned out on Sunday to renew their demands for the government to step down amid accusations it is trying to protect corrupt politicians.

Francis, first pope to visit Anglicans in Rome, weighs S Sudan trip

Pope Francis became the first leader of the Catholic Church to visit the Anglican community in Rome on Sunday, where he said he was considering a trip to famine-struck South Sudan.

Ibrahimovic lifts Man United past Southampton in League Cup final

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an 87th-minute winner as Manchester United beat Southampton 3-2 in an exciting League Cup final on Sunday.

London screens Iranian director's film amid Oscars boycott

Thousands of people watched a free screeening of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's film "The Salesman" in London on Sunday to coincide with the Oscars.

Real Madrid stage comeback to stay top; Messi scores in Barcelona win

Lionel Messi scored the winner as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 on Sunday to move top of the Spanish first division.

Dubrovnik Sun Gardens Hotel member of The Leading Hotels of the World

The Dubrovnik Sun Gardens Hotel has joined the Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd., a global hospitality consortium of more than 375 hotels and resorts in over 75 countries.

Biggest Bosnian Serb party ceases all contact with Izetbegovic over ICJ judjment review request

The main committee of the biggest Bosnian Serb party which makes up the ruling majority in Bosnia and Herzegovina decided o Sunday that its officials would cease all contact with member of the Bosnian President Bakir Izetbegovic until the crisis occurred following the submission of a request to the International Court of justice (ICJ) to review its ruling against Serbia is resolved.