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Obama Ends Asian Summit With Focus On Counterterrorism


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. President Obama vowed this morning that the U.S. and its allies will destroy the self-proclaimed Islamic State. And he urged Americans not to give into fear. The president spoke at a press conference in Malaysia, wrapping up a nine-day trip that also included stops in Turkey and the Philippines. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley joins me in the studio now. Scott, the president has another busy week of diplomacy ahead of him. French President Francois Hollande will be at the White House Tuesday to talk with Obama about a counter-ISIS strategy. What can you tell us about that meeting?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: In the wake of the Paris attacks, President Hollande's been talking about forming a grand coalition with the U.S., France and Russia to take on the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. And towards that end, Hollande is going to do some shuttle diplomacy this week. He's meeting with Obama on Tuesday and then Vladimir Putin in Moscow later in the week. Obama was asked this morning about the prospects of working with Russia, which up until now has had a very different agenda in Syria, one that revolves around propping up Bashar al-Assad. And Obama said Russia's priorities may be changing, but we don't know yet.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It will be helpful if Russia directs its focus on ISIL. And I do think that as a consequence of ISIL claiming responsibility for bringing down their plane, there is an increasing awareness on the part of President Putin that ISIL poses a greater threat to them than anything else in the region.

HORSLEY: The White House continues to insist that the only way of ending the civil war in Syria that feeds ISIS is for Assad to step aside.

MARTIN: Focusing on President Hollande in France, he is getting ready to host this huge summit on international climate in just over a week. President Obama will be there in Paris. That's still going to be held as planned? What do we expect from that?

HORSLEY: The U.S., China and other big polluters have already announced promises to rein in their production of greenhouse gases. One big question is how much money the relatively wealthy countries of the world are willing to put up to help developing countries do the same. The president said this morning they're well on their way. And he argued it's a good investment.


OBAMA: If a country like India, for example, with over a billion people, is a major polluter, that's going to affect all of us. If, on the other hand, they're developing and growing in a clean way, that's going to be good for all of us.

HORSLEY: Now, there were some who suggested those climate talks should be postponed because of the Paris attacks. But Obama says we shouldn't allow those attacks to stop us from doing the things we would ordinarily do.

MARTIN: And the attacks didn't stop President Obama from taking this big trip to Asia, even if the news from Paris and Mali did overshadow much of it. How has the president handled criticism that he should have canceled his trip altogether? Because he did hear that.

HORSLEY: Well, the president scoffed this morning at a Politico headline which labeled this trip Obama's Asian distraction.


OBAMA: The premise seemed to be that this region was somehow disconnected from pressing global events. I could not disagree more.

HORSLEY: Throughout his administration, the president's tried to shift attention away from places like Iraq and towards the fast-growing Asia-Pacific. But this week shows once again just how difficult that pivot can be.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley, here in the studio. Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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