Sarkozy hails US-French ties but doesn't spare criticism
8 November 2007, Washington (dpa) - French President Nicholas Sarkozy came to the United States trying to overcome the sour relations of recent years, but he didn't hesitate to make his expectations known for a renewed partnership with Washington. Sarkozy's backslapping press conference with President George W Bush and address to Congress were filled with warmth and at times even "love" for Americans and their dedication to freedom, democracy and work ethic. The French conservative, mocked back home as "Sa
8 November 2007
Washington (dpa) - French President Nicholas Sarkozy came to the United States trying to overcome the sour relations of recent years, but he didn't hesitate to make his expectations known for a renewed partnership with Washington.
Sarkozy's backslapping press conference with President George W Bush and address to Congress were filled with warmth and at times even "love" for Americans and their dedication to freedom, democracy and work ethic.
The French conservative, mocked back home as "Sarko the American" for his pro-US orientation, took a break from the celebration of Franco-US ties to criticize US trade and environmental policies.
He faulted the Bush administration for failing to act against the dollar's slumping value against the euro, which gives the United States a competitive trade advantage, and for not adequately responding to global warming - a message not unfamiliar to Bush.
"Those who admire the nation that has built the world's greatest economy and has never ceased trying to persuade the world of the advantages of free trade expect her to be the first to promote fair exchange rates," Sarkozy said in his address before a joint session of Congress, through a translator.
Sarkozy stuck to the widely held European view that the United States, the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, must join Europe as an international voice to raise alarm about the threat posed by climate change.
"Those who love the country of wide open spaces, of national parks and protected nature reserves, expect America to stand alongside Europe in leading - I repeat, leading - the fight against global warming that threatens the destruction of our planet," Sarkozy said.
There was no question that Sarkozy's visit represented a major change in the tone of US-French relations, which had grown chilly over the war in Iraq. France, under president Jacques Chirac, joined with then-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany to rally international opposition against Bush's decision to invade in March 2003.
The United States and Germany began healing relations when voters ousted Shroeder two years ago in favour of more conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Bush will host this weekend at his Texas ranch - the highest gesture of friendship this president affords foreign leaders.
Bush rolled out the red carpet for Sarkozy Tuesday evening at a White House dinner before holding discussions Wednesday at the Mount Vernon estate of the first US president, George Washington, just outside the US capital.
"When I say that the French people love the American people, that is the truth and nothing but the truth," said Sarkozy, who irked some circles in France by vacationing this summer in the United States and meeting the president for lunch at the Bush family retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bush and Sarkozy expressed wide consensus on key international challenges, with the French leader endorsing the Washington's pursuit of of tougher UN sanctions on Iran and pledging to work together to stablize democracies in Lebanon and Afghanistan.
Sarkozy devoted most of his congressional address to praising the United States for its leadership in supporting democracy and freedom around the world. He spoke at length about how Americans sacrificed their lives to rescue France in two world wars.
"Whenever an American soldier falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American army did for France," he said. "I think of them, and I am sad, as one is saddened to lose a member of one's family."
While it remains unclear how Sarkozy's warm reception in the United States will play out in France, there can be no question that he has a fan in the White House. At the end of their jovial press conference, Bush was asked if he approved of Sarkozy's decision to hold direct talks with Syria about the Lebanese elections.
"I have a partner in peace, somebody who has clear vision, basic values, who is willing to take tough positions to achieve peace," Bush said. "So when you ask, am I comfortable with a Sarkozy government sending messages? You bet I'm comfortable."
Subject: German news