President Barack Obama has told Spain's King Juan Carlos that he would like to visit the Iberian nation, the Spanish foreign minister said after the monarch and the US chief executive shared a working lunch at the White House.
Obama recalled past journeys to Spain and expressed a desire to return, but there was no discussion of dates or an agenda, Miguel Angel Moratinos said at a press conference on Wednesday following the meeting.
The king assured Obama that "he would be very welcome", the foreign minister said, though adding that contrary to earlier comments by Spanish officials, Juan Carlos did not convey a formal written invitation.
Obama also indicated he will "continue working to adequately prepare" for this year's planned US-European Union summit, Moratinos said, suggesting the trans-Atlantic conclave could take place in the second half of 2010.
The US government said early this month that Obama would not attend the EU-US gathering originally set for May in Madrid, stressing that the president, who said he wants to cut back on foreign travel, had never planned to take part.
Spain took over the EU rotating presidency Jan 1 and will relinquish it at the end of June.
The White House lunch, which went on longer than expected, included US National Security Adviser James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while Juan Carlos was accompanied by Moratinos and the top official of the Spanish royal household, Alberto Aza.
Prepared by renowned Spanish chef and restaurateur Jose Andres, the lunch consisted of an arugula salad with apple and thyme, grilled shrimp with tomato sauce and apple tart.
During the meal, Obama praised the state of US-Spanish relations and said he would like to expand bilateral cooperation on issues relating to the Middle East and Latin America, regions where Madrid has influence.
Moratinos said Obama expressed appreciation for Spain's contribution in Afghanistan, where around 1,000 Spanish troops are serving with the NATO-led security force, and for Madrid's willingness to accept five detainees from Guantanamo.
The president wants to close the detention centre for terror suspects on the US Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba, and has asked EU nations to aid in that effort by accepting detainees who have been cleared for release.
"The visit reflects the long standing warm relationship the king has enjoyed with the United States and represents the breadth and depth of the historical ties between the American and Spanish people," National Security Council spokesman Michael Hammer said of Wednesday's meeting.