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Obama to recall 9/11 spirit at Ground Zero

05 may 2011, 13:28
President Barack Obama on Thursday will follow up his triumph in the killing of Osama bin Laden by visiting New York's Ground Zero and meeting with families of people killed in the 9/11 attacks, AFP reports.

The trip will be steeped in symbolism, with the president laying a wreath at the site of the September 11, 2001 massacre just days after he ordered the daring operation to kill bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

Yet the White House stressed Wednesday that this was not a victory tour, but a form of homage to the victims of the attacks that triggered Washington's controversial, global war against Al-Qaeda nearly a decade ago.

Calling the death of bin Laden a "cathartic moment for the American people," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama wanted to "honor the spirit of unity in America that we all felt in the wake of that terrible attack."

His wreath will be laid in remembrance of the hundreds of firemen and others killed trying to rescue people from the collapsing Twin Towers.

"He will also meet with families of the victims and first responders in private," Carney said.

"He wants to meet with them and share with them this important and significant moment, a bitter-sweet moment, I think, for many families of the victims."

The killing of America's nemesis in such spectacular fashion -- during a helicopter-borne commando raid deep inside Pakistan -- is undoubtedly one of Obama's chief political triumphs since taking office in 2008.

Polls showed an immediate surge in support and even the usually squabbling Washington political establishment has rallied around the president.

But the White House appears serious about its declared intent to avoid triumphalism or the temptation to exploit the event for electoral gains.

Obama notably invited his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was president at the time of 9/11 and earned widespread international opprobrium for his so-called "war on terror," to join him at Ground Zero.

Although the offer was declined, the White House had made its point.

"This is a moment of unity for Americans and a moment to recall the unity that existed in this country in the wake of the attacks on 9/11," Carney said. "The invitation was made in that spirit."

There will be no public speech during the Ground Zero visit and the meeting with families will be private, although Carney did not exclude that some off-the-cuff comments might be made.

That reticence was portrayed as part of the same attempt to retain an atmosphere of dignity in the wake of bin Laden's killing.

Obama has personally ordered that photographs of the al-Qaeda chief's dead body remain secret -- despite clamor from some for visual proof of his demise.

By Sebastian Smith

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