Obama praises Italian leader for 'bold' leadership

WASHINGTON - Seeking to boost a close ally, President Barack Obama threw his support Tuesday behind efforts that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is taking to overhaul that country's political system and enhance its economy, saying that Renzi's "bold" and "progressive" leadership was exactly what Europe needs at a time of crisis and soul-searching.

Obama invited Renzi to the White House for the final official visit and state dinner of his presidency, telling hundreds of spectators at the arrival ceremony that "we saved the best for last."

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