Obama, Hillary hold ‘positive’ unity talks (Second lead)

June 7th, 2008 - 12:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 6 (IANS) Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his vanquished party rival Hillary Clinton held “positive” “unity talks” hours after she disavowed a campaign by supporters to make her Obama’s vice-presidential running mate. “Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in November,” a joint statement from the two sides said after their first meeting since he clinched the nomination.

The Thursday night meeting originally was believed to be at Clinton’s Washington D.C. home, but it now turns out they met at the home of a Clinton supporter, Senator Dianne Feinstein. The meeting began at 9 p.m. and lasted about an hour.

CNN cited Feinstein as saying she left the two former rivals alone in her Washington living room with nothing other than water and comfortable chairs for what she called a “positive” meeting.

“They talked. I went upstairs and did my work,” Feinstein said Friday. “They called me when it was over. I came down and said, ‘Good night, everybody, I hope you had a good meeting.’ They were laughing and that was it.”

“I think the opportunity to sit down, just the two of them, was positive,” she said.

The Obama campaign’s communication director, Robert Gibbs said Friday: “They talked about how to come together and how to unify this party and move forward because what we have at stake in November is so important.”

“And what unites us as a party far exceeds what might divide either of these two candidates,” Gibbs said on CNN’s “American Morning.”. But he would not say whether the senators discussed the possibility of Clinton becoming Obama’s running mate.

On the same show, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he told Clinton he intended to support Obama. But he too didn’t shed any light on whether Clinton would have a place on the ticket.

“Hillary is going to endorse Barack tomorrow [Saturday],” Reid said. “She’s a very good woman. She’s been a great senator. And she’s going to be a great help to us in this [election], no matter what role she has in the campaign.”

Reporters on Obama’s press plane came to know of the meeting Thursday night when they learned that the presumed Democratic nominee for president was not aboard when it departed Virginia, where he had been campaigning. Aides said staff members “scheduled him some meetings” in Washington.

A group that is urging Obama to select Clinton as his running mate praised the meeting. “We are thrilled to hear that Senators Obama and Clinton are meeting already,” said a statement from VoteBoth. “We hope that Thursday night’s conversation is a step toward an Obama-Clinton ticket that will unify the party.”

Clinton, who has still not conceded the race, plans to announce her “strong support” to Obama at a Washington event Saturday, but may still stop short of endorsing his candidature.

The former first lady plans to suspend her campaign within days, her campaign said. By suspending instead of dropping out altogether, Clinton would technically remain a candidate, entitled to keep state wide pledged delegates and district-level delegates.

Earlier, in a statement issued by Clinton’s campaign, she said the supporters were acting on their own, and that the choice of a running mate was “Senator Obama’s, and his alone”.

“While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her,” Howard Wolfson, one of the Clinton campaign’s chief strategists stated. “The choice here is Senator Obama’s, and his alone.”

The statement came after two days in which a number of her key supporters had pushed the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket, saying it would salve wounds in the Democratic Party and assure a Democratic victory in the November presidential election.

Clinton had made no obvious effort to discourage the effort, telling New York lawmakers in a private conference call earlier this week that she was open to serving as Obama’s running-mate.

She still did not rule out accepting the position if it is offered, even as she said she had not authorized the campaign on her behalf.

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