Bush-Chirac dinner falls short on substance

22nd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 22 (AFP) - The Brussels dinner date between Presidents Bush and Chirac has successfully put their troubled relationship on a friendlier footing, but the reconciliation is one of tone rather than substance, commentators in Paris said Tuesday.

PARIS, Feb 22 (AFP) - The Brussels dinner date between Presidents Bush and Chirac has successfully put their troubled relationship on a friendlier footing, but the reconciliation is one of tone rather than substance, commentators in Paris said Tuesday.

With France and the US committed to presenting a more united front after the divisions of the last two years, there was no chance of Monday's meeting going seriously awry - and the two leaders performed their allotted roles with professional aplomb.

"These guys are never going to be friends. But they are both pragmatists.

They know they are going to have to work together - and they know how to make the right gestures," said Nicole Bacharan, a specialist in Franco-US relations at the National Foundation for Political Science.

"They brought out all the symbols - the French fries, the Californian wine, the joke about the cowboy. It was a message to say - look, we can cooperate. And that is about the best they can do," she said.

The mutual back-slapping may be necessary and welcome, but it cannot disguise the fact that the two leaders retain fundamentally different views of how the world should be run, other analysts said.

"George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac are talking. That doesn't mean they understand each other," said Luc de Barochez of the conservative daily Le Figaro.

"On the two burning issues of the day - Syria and Iran - their differences are flagrant. The row over Iraq may be more or less over, but the two presidents still have visions of the world which are at polar opposites," he said.

If the two men agree that the governments in Damascus and Teheran need to be kept under pressure - the one for its occupation of Lebanon, the other for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons - the old division remains over the ultimate recourse to military power to produce the desired goal.

"Euro-American frictions have always concerned less the ends than the means of attaining them. Who can be against peace, democracy and prosperity in the Middle East? No-one is against getting rid of tyrants," argued the left-wing Liberation in an editorial.

"Once again France and America share the same goal of getting Iran and Syria to stop destabilising the region ... but to get there Bush still seems willing to contemplate the big military stick rather than the diplomatic carrot that France and its diplomatic partners are offering," it said.

The financial daily Les Echos agreed that fundamental differences in outlook between the US and France cannot be masked by diplomatic niceties.

"In spite of George W. Bush's real efforts to correct the messianic and unilateral image that has so fed anti-American sentiment in Europe, there are still two different approaches - two visions of society based on values that may be shared but are now evolving in different ways," it said.

Nonetheless, the caveats duly conceded, no-one was in a mood to be churlish about the Bush-Chirac reconciliation - however superficial it may prove to be. "In diplomacy tone matters," said Bacharan. "They did what they had to do."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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