Obama and Clinton meet as she denies VP interest

In this file photo Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with Senator Barack Obama during the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington. Clinton and likely Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama met privately on Thursday night to talk about uniting the Democratic Party. (AP)

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held a hush-hush meeting late on Thursday as Obama kicked off his campaign for the White House and amid speculation over his vice presidential pick.

"Senator Clinton and Senator Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in [the election in] November," their campaigns said in joint statement, US media said.

No details were given on the issues discussed, but Clinton earlier denied she was agitating to be picked as Obama's vice president after his victory on Tuesday in their epic battle for the Democratic White House nomination.

After promising to throw the full weight of her formidable support behind Obama at a farewell event on Saturday, Clinton disowned an orchestrated drive by some of her followers to force her onto Obama's ticket.

"While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her," said her campaign.

"The choice here is Senator Obama's and his alone."

The brief statement made no mention of whether the New York senator would be willing to accept the job if it were offered.

On Tuesday, as Obama clinched enough delegates to represent the party in November's election, Clinton told New York lawmakers that she was open to the idea of serving as his vice president.

Since then, some of her backers have been lobbying on her behalf, arguing that her support among working-class voters and women would guarantee a November sweep against Republican John McCain.

Noting Clinton's 18 million primary votes and victories in swing states, New York Representative Charlie Rangel told CBS that "we should expect a landslide if they had this dream ticket”.

But Obama said he would not be bounced into a choice as a three-member team, including assassinated president John F Kennedy's daughter Caroline, began to vet vice-presidential contenders on his behalf.

Interviewed by CNN on Thursday, the Illinois senator reiterated a line he used repeatedly on the primary campaign trial: "Senator Clinton would be on anybody's shortlist."

He stressed, however: "What I've also said is, the vice presidency is the most important decision that I'll make before I'm president.

"I'm a big believer in making decisions well, not making them fast and not responding to pressure."

At a rally in Virginia on Thursday, Obama paid tribute to Clinton and vowed to unify the party for the general election.

"I know we won't be divided because whatever differences between me and Hillary Clinton, they pale in comparison to the differences we have with the other side," he said.

Following concerted pressure from some of her own backers frustrated at her refusal so far to bow out, Clinton announced she would end her dogged quest to be America's first female president at the weekend event in Washington.

"I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama," the former first lady said in a message to supporters.

"I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise."

As tearful staff at Clinton's campaign headquarters outside Washington dismantled their operations, there was some frustration at the belated nature of her concession.

Clinton had refused to concede even as Obama crossed the winning line of 2,118 delegates needed to win the nominating race.

Hitting the campaign trail on Thursday, Obama challenged voters in Virginia - who have not backed a Democrat in the presidential elections since 1964 - to break the mold and support him over McCain.

"This is our moment, this is our time, and if you will vote for me, I will win Virginia, we will win this election, and we will change the course of history," he said.