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Pool Report: Obama meets with Palestinians in Ramallah

Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for one hour (15 mins longer than scheduled) at the Mukata, the president’s compound in Ramallah. Meeting began 1:30 pm and ended 2:30.

Obama was walked down to his motorcade afterward by Abbas and lots of security. Obama waved but made no statement. Campaign plans to move a statement later today to all traveling press re the mtg

Color below:

Ramallah is about six miles north of Jerusalem but it took half an hour to get there, driving fast. The motorcade left King David Hotel 12:55 pm, north on Highway 1 and then into the West Bank. At 1:05 we stopped at the West Bank Hizma checkpoint along the separation barrier.

At 1:20 at the entrance to Ramallah we passed a VIP checkpoint staffed by Israeli security forces. At this point, dozens of Palestinian forces wearing camouflage, helmets,vests and armed with semiautomatic rifles lined the road to the compound, their backs to the road.

At 1:25 we turned left into an entrance to the walled compound of connected sand-colored, two- and three-floor buildings with red-tile roofs. Yasser Arafat is buried in a crypt on the grounds of the compound but Obama did not tour the gravesite.

It was chaos trying to get inside the meeting. Dozens of local journalists were waiting and Palestinian officials were reluctant to let the Obama pool through in the confusion.

Once the Obama pool was let in there was a stampede up a set of stairs, and in the process a large potted plant was knocked over and the pot broken, spilling soil all over the floor. Staff with brooms immediately appeared and began sweeping.

We were taken through an upstairs hallway with four red oriental rugs and into a room where Obama was seated to the left of Abbas with a small coffee table and a tall Palestinian flag between them, and photos of the late Arafat and Abbas himself on the wall behind Abbas. PM Fayyad was seated off to the right of Abbas. Obama was speaking softly to Abbas (inaudible) and the two were leaning in toward one another. We were permitted in only for a moment for photos, then ushered out. Obama was accompanied by advisers Dennis Ross, Jim Steinberg, Dan Shapiro. Susan Rice, Dan Kurtzer.