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Dallas shooting overshadows Obama's shortened visit to Spain

US President Barack Obama has said there is "new hope" for Spain's economy. His first presidential trip to the Iberian Peninsula was cut short so he could return to the US and mourn with victims' families in Dallas.

Speaking alongside King Felipe VI on Sunday, US President Barack Obama said that after years of grinding economic hardship, "Spain has turned a corner."

"The economy is growing again, with growth rates that are among the strongest in Europe. There's new hope for the future," he said.

Despite the minor upward turn in the economy, Spain continues to be locked in an almost seven-month political stalemate. Parties were forced to negotiate a coalition government after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People's Party (PP) failed to win a parliamentary majority in a repeat election last month.

In an interview with Spanish paper "El Pais," the US president went on to praise Spain for being an "indispensable European partner."

"Spain is a strong NATO ally, we're grateful for Spain's many decades of hosting US forces, and we're major trading partners," Obama said in the interview. "That's why the United States is deeply committed to maintaining our relationship with a strong, unified Spain."

Shortened stay

Obama originally intended to spend two days in Spain - the only major European country that he hadn't traveled to during his presidency, which comes to an end in January. Plans to visit Seville and meet Spanish citizens were cut out of the itinerary, however, after a former US army reservist shot dead five police officers in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday.

The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, was killed in a standoff, but he reportedly told authorities earlier that he was motivated by revenge for police violence against African-Americans.

Speaking alongside King Felipe on Sunday, Obama said: "We have had a difficult week back in the United States, so my trip is a little abbreviated, but I thought it was very important for me to come here, given the extraordinary friendship and alliance between Spain and the US."

Obama previously visited Spain as a student when he backpacked around Europe before beginning law school.

Divisions 'overplayed'

Despite cutting short his European engagement, before departing to Spain from Warsaw, where he had been attending a key NATO summit, Obama said divisions among Americans were overplayed.

"The individual who carried out the attacks in Dallas, he's no more representative of African-Americans than the shooter in Charleston was representative of white Americans," Obama said in reference to Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine black churchgoers last year.

The US president was due later on Sunday to meet with Rajoy and address troops at Naval Station Rota, before heading back to the United States.

ksb/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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