Obama reserves final state dinner for Italy’s prime minister

FILE - In this Sept 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The president is preparing to send more troops to Iraq to help reclaim the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, U.S. officials said Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama is reserving his final state dinner for the prime minister of Italy, providing star treatment to a key ally who soon faces a critical leadership test in his home country.

The official visit and state dinner for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Tuesday will be a glitzy affair that features celebrity chef Mario Batali in the kitchen and singer Gwen Stefani performing.

White House officials describe the two political leaders as ideologically sharing a great deal of common ground, most notably their belief in the importance of a strongly integrated Europe.

Britain’s decision to exit the European Union is testing that vision, and a Dec. 4 referendum in Italy on the government’s proposed overhaul of the constitution could derail Renzi’s political future if it fails.

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