Brown and Obama hold bilateral meeting

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today held a bilateral meeting with US president Barack Obama at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Widespread press reports suggested that the president had "snubbed" Mr Brown by refusing five separate requests for one-on-one talks, in a sign of American anger over the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

But Downing Street today said the two men went into a bilateral meeting immediately after issuing a joint statement in Pittsburgh with French president Nicolas Sarkozy over Iran's secret uranium enrichment plant.

The White House said that the meeting had initially been scheduled for this afternoon, but had been brought forward to take place before the main session of discussions by the G20 group of the world's major economies.

Mr Brown dismissed the controversy over his meetings with Mr Obama as a media "game".

Asked at a press conference in Pittsburgh how the bilateral had gone, he replied: "I have been meeting the President all week and I am not going to get into this game.

"I have met the President again today to talk about a number of big issues. We have talked about Iran, we have talked about Afghanistan for the third time this week and we have talked about the global economic crisis."

Reports of an Obama snub were denied by both Downing Street and the White House earlier this week.

The British press reported unnamed officials as saying that Number 10 made "frantic" efforts to secure a private meeting but were rebuffed on five separate occasions, even though Mr Obama was ready to meet other world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York earlier this week.

Number 10 yesterday dismissed the claims as "completely without foundation", while the White House released a statement insisting that the relationship between Mr Obama and Mr Brown was "terrific".

And the Prime Minister himself said he and Mr Obama continued to have "the strongest working relationship and the strongest friendship".

Downing Street said yesterday that possible meetings between the two men had been discussed in "numerous" phone calls in the run-up to the New York and Pittsburgh gatherings, but that no timing for formal bilateral talks had been "pinned down" in advance.

Meanwhile, a White House spokesman said: "Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd."

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