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First Lady's White House 'conflict'

A new book on the relationship of US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle portrays the First Lady as a behind-the-scenes force bristling at the demands and constraints of White House life and whose opinions have drawn her into conflict with presidential advisers.

In a book to be published on Tuesday, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor portrays a White House where tensions developed between Mrs Obama and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former press secretary and presidential adviser Robert Gibbs.

The Times has posted a 3,300-word adaptation of the book, The Obamas, on its website.

The accounts are based on interviews with 30 current and former aides, though the Obamas declined to be interviewed for the book.

The Times adaptation of the book portrays Mrs Obama as having gone through an evolution from struggle to fulfilment in her role at the White House, but all the while an "unrecognised force" in pursuing the president's goals.

She is seen publicly as the friendly and popular face of the softer side of the White House, the one reading to school children or promoting exercise as a means of reducing child obesity.

Among the most provocative anecdotes, Kantor recounts a scene in which Mr Gibbs, frustrated after tamping down a potential public relations crisis involving the First Lady, exploded when presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett told him Mrs Obama had concerns about the White House response to the flap. The initial commotion had been over an alleged remark by Mrs Obama to French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy that living in the White House was "hell".

Kantor writes that Mr Gibbs later said his anger was misplaced and that he blamed Ms Jarrett for creating the confrontation.

The White House gave the book a cold reaction, calling it an "over-dramatisation of old news" and emphasising that the Obamas did not speak to the author, who last interviewed them for a magazine piece in 2009.

"The emotions, thoughts and private moments described in the book, though often seemingly ascribed to the president and first lady, reflect little more than the author's own thoughts," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. "These second-hand accounts are staples of every administration in modern political history and often exaggerated."

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