The Latest: Obama notes Italian contributions to US

October 19, 2016
President Barack Obama toasts to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during a State Dinner on the South Lawn in the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s official visit to the White House and the final state dinner of the Obama administration (all times EDT):

9:50 p.m.

President Barack Obama says American democracy has been graced by a touch of Italy.

He notes that the Lincoln Memorial and the interior of the U.S. Capitol dome were done by Italians.

At the final state dinner of his administration, Obama is also praising Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as someone who represents the energy, optimism, vision and values that can carry Europe forward.

He offered a toast to the “enduring alliance” between the United States and Italy.

And although it’s his final state dinner, Obama quoted another famous Italian — the late Yogi Berra — in saying, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”


7:20 p.m.

Michelle Obama is dazzling the crowd at her final state dinner as first lady, wearing a figure-hugging, floor-length rose gold chainmail gown.

She is enhancing the disco vibe of the dress with sleek, straight hair and side-swept bangs.

Mrs. Obama chose Atelier Versace for the White House dinner honoring Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini.

The sleeveless gown showcases the first lady’s famously sculpted arms. A front slit reveals open-toed shoes.


12:05 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the military operation to reclaim the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State militants will be a “difficult fight.”

He says there will be advances and setbacks but adds that driving the Islamic State group from Iraq’s second-largest city “will be another step toward their ultimate destruction.”

The Iraqi government launched the take-back operation on Monday, after months of preparation and support from U.S. military advisers and trainers.

Speaking at the White House Tuesday alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Obama said a top priority for both of their governments is the safety and humanitarian aid for the approximately 1 million people who still live in Mosul and could suffer during the fighting.


9:40 a.m.

President Barack Obama says it’s a “bittersweet” day as he and Michelle Obama welcome the Italian prime minster for the last official visit and state dinner of the Obama presidency.

On a clear, fall day, the president says he and the first lady “saved the best for last” in welcoming Matteo Renzi and wife, Mrs. Agnese Landini, on Tuesday.

As for this being the last official visit of his presidency, a smiling Obama adds, “it’s OK.”

Renzi, for his part, says the visit is a chance to pay tribute to the enduring friendship between the U.S. and Italy.

The two leaders had plenty of kind words for each other.

Renzi told Obama: “We think history will be kind with you, Mr. President.”


9:10 a.m.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are formally welcoming Italy’s prime minister and his wife to the United States with a grand arrival ceremony on the South Lawn.

The ceremony marks the beginning of a long day of meetings, statements and a press conference by Obama and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The ceremony features the performance of national anthems, the two leaders reviewing military honor guards and personally greeting many in attendance, and brief remarks.

The White House says Obama wants to use the visit and final state dinner of his presidency to memorialize the strong ties between Italy and U.S. and “put wind in the sails” of a young leader that Obama views as a promising political leader.


3:00 a.m.

President Barack Obama is reserving his final state dinner for the prime minister of Italy, providing star treatment to a key ally who soon faces a critical leadership test at home.

The official visit and state dinner for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday will be a glitzy affair that features celebrity chef Mario Batali in the kitchen and singer Gwen Stefani performing after the dinner.

White House officials describe the two political leaders as ideologically sharing a great deal of common ground, most notably their belief in the importance of a strongly integrated Europe.

Britain’s decision to exit the European Union is testing that vision, and a Dec. 4 referendum in Italy on the government’s proposed overhaul of the constitution could derail Renzi’s political future if it fails.