Barack Obama Hosts Mitt Romney At White House

President Barack Obama has hosted his former Republican opponent Mitt Romney for a private lunch at the White House.

The encounter was the first time the two have met since the November 6 presidential election.

The pair sat down alone in the president's private dining room off the Oval Office.

The meeting was closed to the media, and Mr Romney, now stripped of his Secret Service detail, left a little over an hour after his arrival.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "Governor Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years.

"The focus of their discussion was on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future.

"They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future."

Mr Carney said the pair dined on white turkey chilli and southwestern grilled chicken salad.

There was a moment of drama for Mr Romney as his motorcade neared the White House when a man approached the vehicles and was then arrested after arguing with Secret Service officers.

It remains unclear whether the meeting was just for appearances' sake as Mr Obama seeks to heal the political wounds of a divisive election or if he had a specific task in mind for Mr Romney and, if he did, whether the Republican would accept.

Mr Obama said in his first post-election news conference earlier this month that he hoped to work with Mr Romney.

One issue the president could seek the assistance of the former Republican candidate on is the looming so-called fiscal cliff that has left the White House and Republican members of Congress at odds.

They must reach a deal before January 1 to halt the combination of tax hikes and automatic spending cuts that were put in place as punishment for the failure by a gridlocked Congress to reach a deficit-cutting deal last year.