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Mississippi Gov. Barbour skips Obama meeting for Central Park picnic

Governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Florida met with President Barack Obama about the Gulf oil disaster Friday in Kenner, La., but as with the president's trip last week to the region, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was absent.

Barbour spokeswoman Laura Hipp said the governor is in New York, meeting with bond-rating agencies about the state's finances and to attend the annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park, which showcases Magnolia State food and culture to New Yorkers and expatriate Mississippians living there.

Hipp said Barbour would return this weekend.

A White House transcript of the president's talk with the other governors included no mention of Mississippi.

According to the transcript, Obama's comments included: "All right. The last point I wanted to make is we did talk about what the environmental quality is down here right now. Lisa Jackson has been down here all week and she went all across the country — or all across the state of Louisiana. She's going to be monitoring what's going on in Alabama and Florida as well."

The 31st annual Mississippi Picnic is today at noon, at East Meadow in Central Park. Mississippi artists and authors will display and sell their art and books, and "Barbour will be on hand to bring greetings from Mississippi," the event's Web site says. The Mississippi Catfish Cooking team will be serving Simmons Farm fried catfish.

Hipp and a White House spokesman said Barbour continues to participate in daily conference calls with the White House, Coast Guard and others on the oil-disaster response.

Barbour missed another meeting between Obama and the Gulf governors on the president's trip last week to Louisiana. Barbour had previously committed to attend the opening of a solar-panel plant in Senatobia, Miss.

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