A digitally altered image of Chinese President Hu Jintao, US President Barack Obama

*The White House has weighed in on a provocative new ad campaign by Italian clothing-maker Benetton that includes the unauthorized use of President Obama’s likeness – which is seen kissing two traditional foes of the United States: Chinese President Hu Jintao and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The photoshopped images, which have appeared on posters and in storefronts around the world, is two of several in the company’s “Unhate” campaign that features world leaders locking lips with adversaries, often of the same sex.

The Obama administration finally released a statement on the matter.

“The White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president’s name and likeness for commercial purposes,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in an email. Schultz declined to say whether the administration has contacted Benetton to ask the company to take down the Obama images.

A digitally altered image of President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Benetton withdrew an image of Pope Benedict XVI and  a top Egyptian imam kissing after the Vatican threatened to sue, according to the Associated Press.

The campaign also features fictitious depictions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel touching lips.

In January 2010, the White House appealed to the Weatherproof Garment Company to take down a Times Square billboard that featured a photo of Obama in one of the company’s jackets. The company later complied.