White House rejects 'replica' Oval Office story

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House on Wednesday rejected reports that a replica Oval Office was being built for President Barack Obama to use during repairs of the iconic West Wing complex.

Reports had said that Mr Obama could be asked to move to the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House by August, in the latest stage of a multi-year renovation effort.

"I can say that specifically, reports about a replica Oval Office are false. And, you know, no one's moving from the West Wing ... no decisions about that have been made," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The West Wing houses the Oval Office, where Mr Obama spends most of his days working and meets foreign leaders for ceremonial talks and other top visitors to the White House, the Cabinet Room and offices of top Obama advisors.

Its cramped offices and winding corridors represent the most jealously fought-over real estate in Washington, where power is judged by proximity to the president.

The RealClearPolitics website reported that the West Wing repairs were part of a US$376 million (S$465.8 million) renovation project of the most famous office in the world.

Other presidents have been forced to relocate for renovation work at various times in the history of the White House. And Richard Nixon often used to retire to an office in the Old Executive Office Building to work in seclusion.

The modern Oval Office has been situated in the West Wing of the White House since 1934, where it was moved from the OEOB for Franklin Roosevelt, who was largely confined to his wheelchair after suffering from polio.

Each president adapts the decoration to suit their own tastes: Mr Obama's decor includes taupe couches and often features a bowl of fresh apples on a coffee table, and a portrait and a bust of his hero Abraham Lincoln.

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