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November 19, 2009

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Fatherly dreams link Obama brothers in Beijing

US President Barack Obama said yesterday that he met briefly with a half brother who lives in China and who recently wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about the abusive Kenyan father they share.

Obama acknowledged the meeting in an interview with CNN. He offered no details. An aide said later that the meeting took place on Monday night after Obama arrived in Beijing.

"I don't know him well. I met him for the first time a couple of years ago," Obama told CNN. "He stopped by with his wife for about five minutes during the trip."

Describing the meeting as "overwhelming" and "intense," Mark Ndesandjo told The Associated Press in an interview yesterday that he had long anticipated the chance to welcome his famous brother to China.

"I think he came directly off the plane, changed some clothes and then came down and saw us," Ndesandjo said. "And he just gave me a big hug. And it was so intense. I'm still over the moon on it."

In the CNN interview, Obama said he hadn't read his brother's book, "Nairobi to Shenzhen," in which Ndesandjo says Barack Obama Sr beat him and his mother.

President Obama also wrote about his father, who had abandoned him as a child, in his best-selling memoir, "Dreams from My Father."

"It's no secret that my father was a troubled person," Obama said. "Anybody who has read my first book, ?Dreams from My Father,' knows that, you know, he had an alcoholism problem, that he didn't treat his families very well. Obviously it's a sad part of my history and my background, but it's not something I spend a lot of time brooding over."

Ndesandjo said he bought tickets months ago to fly to Beijing from the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, where he has lived since 2002, in hopes of reconnecting with his brother. The two last met in January when Ndesandjo attended Obama's inauguration as a family guest.

The three chatted, with Obama being introduced to Ndesandjo's wife, a native of Henan Province in central China, whom he married a year ago, he said. Ndesandjo gave few details of what they discussed.

"All I can say is, we talked about family, and it was very powerful because when he came in through that door, and I saw him and I hugged him, and he hugged me and hugged my wife. It was like we were continuing a conversation that had started many years ago," he said.

The two did not grow up together. Ndesandjo's mother, Ruth Nidesand, was Barack Obama Sr's third wife.

Before arriving in Beijing on Monday, Obama had been in a town hall-style meeting with students in Shanghai, and joked that a family gathering at his house "looks like the United Nations."

President Obama's father had been a Kenyan exchange student who met his mother, Kansas native Stanley Ann Dunham, when they were in school in Hawaii. The two separated two years after he was born.

The senior Obama married Ndesandjo's mother after divorcing the president's mother.


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