Obama calls South American meeting at summit

RIO DE JANEIRO Wed Apr 15, 2009 7:26pm BST

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a meeting with South American leaders at the Summit of the Americas this weekend, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Wednesday.

Obama asked Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to convene a meeting of the South American union, Unasur, for early on Saturday because he wouldn't have time to meet each of the region's leaders individually, Lula said.

"As there is only one day of meetings, it was smart of Obama (to convene Unasur)," Lula said. "It's important for him to meet the people who will be his partners over the next four years."

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the schedule had not been made public, confirmed the meeting but gave no other details.

Bachelet currently presides over Unasur, a group founded last year to help integrate South America along the lines of the European Union.

So far, Lula, Bachelet and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have agreed to the Unasur meeting with Obama, said Marco Aurelio Garcia, Lula's top foreign policy adviser. Other South American presidents are also expected to attend, he said.

The Summit of the Americas is being held April 17-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.

(Reporting by Denise Luna; writing by Raymond Colitt; editing by Eric Beech)

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