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Cowen spanning U.S. for SPD

In Washington, Cowen will be presenting a St. Patrick's Day bowl of shamrock to President Barack Obama in what has become an annual ritual. He will also attend the Speaker's Lunch, meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and members of the House and Senate.

""I'm looking forward to meeting with him again, he's a very personable, gifted politician," Cowen said of the president before departing Ireland where there has been mounting speculation about a possible Obama visit later this year..

Cowen met U.S. ambassador to Ireland Daniel Rooney at Government Buildings evening to discuss his U.S. visit, the Irish Times reported. Any presidential visit would for sure be discussed between the ambassador and taoiseach before final plans are nailed down.

Meanwhile, in New York, Minister Barry Andrews will be representing the Irish government at the St. Patrick's Day Parade. The parade, the 249th consecutive, is being led by grand marshal Ray Kelly (see line of march beginning on Page 22).

The weather forecast for the Fifth Avenue Parade is suggesting a dramatic improvement on last weekend's wet and windy conditions with sunshine and mild temperatures being predicted.

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