Obama's 'Beast' of a Limo Stands Out at Green NATO Summit

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Agence France-Presse

Obama's 'Beast' of a Limo Stands Out at Green NATO Summit

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President Barack Obama steps out of his eight-ton armored behemoth of a limousine and is welcomed by his Portuguese counterpart Anibal Antonio Cavaco Silva (C) in Lisbon on Friday. The Portugese hosts of Friday's NATO summit hoped to use the event to promote the clean-living electric car, but all eyes were on Obama's diesel-guzzling "Beast" instead. (AFP/Pierre-Philippe Marcou)

LISBON - The Portuguese hosts of Friday's NATO summit hoped to use the event to promote clean-energy and electric cars, but all eyes were on US President Barack Obama's diesel-guzzling "Beast" instead.

As is usual when he travels, Obama's eight-ton armored behemoth of a limousine was flown out to Lisbon before the US leader's arrival, and it ferried him from the airport tarmac to his first meetings of the weekend.

Doubtless he didn't intend the Beast's roar to drown out his hosts' green message, but a US presidential motorcade and its attendant escort of Secret Service SUVs do attract attention, even at the most elite gatherings.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his fellow Portuguese, the president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, had arrived at the summit in quiet, zero-emission electric cars.

"I'd like to underline the priority both our countries assign to renewable energy and electric vehicles," Socrates said, after meeting Obama, amid amused sniping from the Portuguese press at the mixed messages.

Portugal is proud of the lead it has taken in introducing what it says is the world's first national electric vehicle charging network, with 100 power outlets in 25 towns and plans to install 1,300 by next year.

The government was particularly keen for the press covering the summit to underline this, and a news release describing the recharging network was already on each of the tables in the media center as the global pack arrived.

Within the highly secure summit site, electric buses were put on to ferry journalists between venues.

In theory, at least, Obama was on side with the plan, remarking: "An area where I want to congratulate the prime minister and the Portuguese people is for the extraordinary leadership that you've shown in clean energy.

"The prime minister's leadership on electric cars will create new opportunities for American companies here in Portugal ... and this is an example of what Portugal and America can achieve together."

But there was no immediate reaction from the White House to criticism of Obama's rather less green form of transport, and the administration has in the past said that the president's security arrangements are non-negotiable.

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