US & Canada

President Obama jokes 'I'm scared of my wife'

Maina Kiai, United Nations special rapporteur, and US President Barack Obama listen during a United Nations event in New York on 23 September 2013
President Obama and Maina Kiai (second from left) appeared on a UN panel on Monday

US President Barack Obama conquered a long-term smoking habit because he was afraid of his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, he has joked with a UN official.

The jesting admission, which the president made apparently unaware he was on camera, came at the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.

Mr Obama privately told a human rights campaigner that he had not had a cigarette in roughly six years.

"That's because I'm scared of my wife," he said with a smile.

The conversation between Mr Obama and Maina Kiai, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, occurred near an open microphone and was later broadcast by CNN.

"I hope you've quit smoking," Mr Obama said to Mr Kiai, a Kenyan.

"Sometimes," Mr Kiai responded, as the two smiled and shook hands.

Both Mr Obama and Mr Kiai attended Harvard University Law School.

Mr Obama has publicly acknowledged his struggles to quit smoking in the past. In 2011, Mrs Obama said her husband had finally overcome the habit.

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