Washington, Jan 13: US President Barack Obama wanted to attend the Paris anti-terror march over the weekend, but could not due to security considerations, the White House said on Monday acknowledging that a high level dignitary should have attended the rally of over a million people.
For the past few days, the White House has been criticised by many, in particular Republicans, for not sending a high level American leader to attend the Paris march in the aftermath of the Islamist attacks in the French capital.
Noting that there was a remarkable display of unity by the French people in response to the terror attack, the White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters that the US should have sent someone with a higher profile for the anti-terror rally in Paris, which was attended by the US Ambassador to France.
Obama, would himself have liked to have an opportunity to attend the Paris march, which was being held outdoors and being attended by millions of people. But there were security considerations and challenges, Earnest said, adding that the short notice at which it was organised was also one of the factors.
"We here at the White House agree that somebody with a higher profile should have also included," he said.
Referring to the large turnout of people for the Paris march he said this was a "remarkable display of unity" by the French people in the face of these terrible terror attacks. "The way that that country has come together, I do think struck a chord and inspired people all across the world and throughout this country. It was a remarkable display.
US should have sent someone with a higher profile for the anti-terror rally
"There were also a number of other world leaders who were there to participate and show their support as well. And some have asked whether or not the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile than the ambassador to France. And I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," he said.
"That said, there is no doubt that the American people and this administration stand foursquare behind our allies in France as they face down this threat and that was evident throughout last week when you saw that the president's top counter terrorism advisor here at the White House was in touch with her French counterpart minutes after the reports of this terror attack first emerged," he said.
"Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there," Earnest said. "The fact is that this is obviously a march, that the planning for which only began on Friday night.
And 36 hours later, it had begun. What's also clear is that the security requirements around a presidential-level visit or even a vice presidential-level visit are onerous and significant.
"After all, what I think was so impressive about this display is it demonstrated the unity of the French people. And that is something that we are always mindful of in situations like this, of interfering with those who are trying to attend an event, particularly when the purpose of the event is to demonstrate the unity of spirit and purpose of the people who are coming together," Earnest said.