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WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Chilean praises Mrs. Obama

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By JIM KUHNHENN
The Associated Press
Monday, March 21, 2011; 6:43 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Chile's president Sebastian Pinera engaged in some very personal diplomacy with President Barack Obama on Monday.

"I think the first lady of the U.S. is very good-looking," Pinera declared during a joint news conference with Obama in Santiago midway through Obama's Latin American tour.

According to Pinera, the sentiment was mutual. "President Obama has said the same about the first lady of Chile."

Obama smiled but didn't elaborate on either first ladies' appearance - at least not in public.

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The similarities between Pinera and Obama go beyond the attractiveness of their wives, according to the Chilean leader.

Closing out their news conference at La Moneda Palace, Pinera reeled off a list of things the two leaders have in common: Both are left-handed; both studied at Harvard; both are "sportsmen," as Pinera put it through a translator.

The personal coincidences couldn't hurt the presidents' mutual goal of strengthening relations between their two countries.

"Modestly, if I could suggest to President Obama, we hope to have a partnership," said Pinera.

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The famed Chilean miners who survived 69 days underground last year were nowhere to be seen during Obama's quick visit to Chile, but the president gave them a shout-out in a speech in Santiago.

"Their resolve and faith inspired the world - 'Los Treinta y Tres'" - the president said. That's Spanish for the 33 - the number of miners trapped in the accident.


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