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Obama set for presidential lunch

Barack Obama on Capitol Hill on 5 January
The pace of work for Mr Obama is speeding up

US President-elect Barack Obama is due at the White House shortly for a high-powered lunch date.

President George W Bush is hosting the event to give his successor the chance to meet former Presidents George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

It is the first such meeting since 1981. US presidents usually only gather at sombre events such as funerals or historic ceremonies.

The lunch takes place with Mr Obama's inauguration less than two weeks away.

President Bush and Mr Obama will meet privately for about half an hour in the Oval Office with events in the Gaza Strip and the US's deep economic problems likely to figure in their discussions.

Democrat Jimmy Carter (1977-81), Mr Bush's father Republican George HW Bush (1989-93) and Democrat Bill Clinton (1993-2001) will join then join them for a group photograph in the Rose Garden at around 1700 GMT.

Flies on the wall

Lunch will give Mr Obama the chance to hear the experiences of the former presidents.

"All of us would love to be flies on the wall and listening to that conversation," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"I'm sure their conversation will range from everything from personal experiences here - I'm sure they'll talk a little bit about raising children in the White House, raising children when you're a public figure and how to protect them."

The idea for the meeting was suggested by Mr Obama and was readily agreed to by President Bush, the White House says.

President Bush and First Lady Bush returning to the White House on 1 January after the holiday
The Bushes have already started packing up their belongings

"It's going to be an interesting lunch," Mr Bush said recently.

For Mr Obama, the pace of work has been quickening. He has spent time this week trying to garner support frorm congressional leaders for his economic stimulus package.

He has also had to defend his reported choice of Leon Panetta as the head of the CIA, which has provoked some grumbling among members of Congress.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden said the Obama team had made a "mistake" in not consulting wider before choosing Mr Panetta, a former Clinton White House chief of staff.

Mr Obama is due to announce his selection of Mr Panetta this week.

Meanwhile, President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have already been working "to box things up", spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"They didn't come with a lot of things. They didn't bring a lot of furniture here. So mostly what they have are books, obviously their clothes, and then some of the things that they've picked up along the way on their travels."

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