Obama coming to town

Obamas relocate to start new life

5/01/2009 1:00:00 AM

US President-elect Barack Obama and his family arrived in Washington at the weekend, in time for him to work on an urgent economic recovery plan and his daughters to start classes at their new school.

After less than 48 hours in their south Chicago home after their luxury Hawaii Christmas holiday, Mr Obama's wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, flew to Washington late on Saturday, a transition aide confirmed.

Mr Obama was to join his family yesterday, two weeks before he is sworn in as the 44th American president on January 20.

The Obamas are moving temporarily into the historic Hay-Adams Hotel in downtown Washington, which overlooks their new home at the White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was unclear why the family were travelling separately.

Sasha and Malia begin classes today at the exclusive Sidwell Friends School, as the President-elect heads to meetings on Capitol Hill to hammer out the final points of a recovery package in a bid to turn around the country's crumbling economy.

The private, Quaker-run Sidwell has long been the choice for presidential offspring the school counts former president Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea and president Richard Nixon's daughters among its alumni.

Before moving to the president's official guest home, Blair House, on January 15, the Obama family can enjoy their transition to the Beltway in style they are expected to stay in one of the hotel's luxury suites which cost $US6000 ($A8500) a night.

Built in 1928, the luxury residence is separated from the White House only by Lafayette Square, a grassy square block.

Apart from a November 10 White House meeting with President George W.Bush, Mr Obama has largely avoided Washington since his historic election as the first African-American US president on November 4.

Most of his time during the transition period was spent in Chicago.

After their 13-day getaway at a $A12.8million rental home in Kailua, Hawaii, the Obama family can expect similar world-class luxury at the Hay-Adams.

Its lavish rooms include custom Italian bed linens and towels, goose-down duvet and pillows, a Bose CD system with CDs, Fiji water and Etro toiletries.

Mr Obama's agenda, however, may be too stacked in the lead-up to his inauguration for him to relax too much.

Mr Bush has invited Mr Obama to a White House lunch on Wednesday, along with former presidents Clinton, George Bush Sr and Jimmy Carter.

The President-elect and members of his incoming administration are also expected to collaborate closely with congressional leaders in the coming weeks, as they work on a multibillion-dollar economic stimulus plan Democrats hope to pass shortly after Mr Obama takes office.

And the ongoing ground and air assault by Israel on the Gaza Strip will also likely press on the Mr Obama's time, although he has so far declined to comment on the situation.

A spokeswoman said, ''The President-elect is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza.''