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*-- Obama hosts Italian PM for final state dinner; jabs 'whining' Trump --*

WASHINGTON - With just three months to go before he checks out of the White House for good, President Barack Obama prepared Tuesday to host his final state dinner at the commander in-chief's residence.

Obama welcomed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the White House and said he felt a little "bittersweet" about Tuesday night's formal dinner.

"Today is bittersweet for Michelle and I because this marks the final official visit and state dinner of my presidency," he told reporters on the south grounds Tuesday afternoon. "But it's okay, we saved the best for last."

Obama formally welcomed the young Italian leader with a reception on the South Lawn.

"Today is a chance for Michelle and me to reciprocate the incredible warmth and hospitality that the Italian people have shown us on each of our visits to Italy," the president continued.

"This visit also reflects the deep friendship between our two peoples -- and the Americans' love of all things Italian. We love the food. We love the fashion. We love the wine. We love Sophia Loren."

Renzi, just 41, is an Obama-like figure in Italy -- an inspirational figure for Italian youth with potentially revolutionary visions. He took over after former PM Enrico Letta resigned in 2014.

"The enduring friendship and the bond between our countries has never been so strong, so deep, and so wide," Renzi said at Tuesday's reception. "If you think about our history, we can imagine five centuries ago when a young Italian called Amerigo Vespucci gave his name to America. And 70 years ago, so many young Americans sacrificed their lives to give freedom back to Italy. Thank you again to these people."

In additional remarks Tuesday, Obama also remarked on the fast-approaching election -- ridiculing Republican candidate Donald Trump's assertion that the electorate is "rigged" in favor of Obama disciple Hillary Clinton.

"Every expert regardless of political party, regardless of ideology, conservative or liberal, who has ever examined these issues in a serious way will tell you instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found," he said, noting that Trump is "whining before the game is even over."

"[To complain] whenever things are going bad for you ... then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama added. "Because there are a lot of times when things don't go our way, or my way."

Renzi has said he prefers Clinton to Trump.


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