Bush to visit Chirac in Paris in June

25th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, March 24 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush is to visit Paris June 5 at the invitation of French counterpart Jacques Chirac in a sign of warming of relations after differences over the US-led war on Iraq.

WASHINGTON, March 24 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush is to visit Paris June 5 at the invitation of French counterpart Jacques Chirac in a sign of warming of relations after differences over the US-led war on Iraq.

"The president will travel to Paris on June 5 to meet with President Chirac," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday.

"He will then travel to Normandy on June 6 to participate in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion" of World War II, McClellan added.

Chirac's office confirmed the visit.

Franco-American relations cooled after Chirac vehemently opposed Bush's decision to invade Iraq a year ago.

The Bush administration was especially upset by France's threat to veto a UN Security Council resolution supporting the war.

Bush and Chirac met in June 2003 during a Group of Eight summit in Evian, France, then in September on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly in New York, but have since had only telephone contacts.

Germany and Russia also opposed military intervention in Iraq to oust former dictator Saddam Hussein, but Bush has since then hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Meanwhile, difficulties encountered by the United States in the stabilization and reconstruction of post-war Iraq, and failure to find the weapons of mass destruction the US claimed were in Iraq, have helped change the status quo.

Bush, seeking a second four-year term in the November 2 elections, has just lost a key ally in Europe in outgoing conservative Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar, who backed him in Iraq.

Aznar's successor, socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has warned he intends to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq by June unless the United Nations takes control of operations.

Zapatero also announced his intention to realign Spain more closely with the European Union, especially with France and Germany.

The Bush administration is prepared to seek a new UN resolution to accompany the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, set for June 30, followed by the organization of general elections there by the end of 2005.

Reestablishing good relations with Paris and Berlin also allows Bush, a Republican, to counter US Democrats' criticism of isolationism caused by some of Bush's unilateral diplomatic initiatives.

Also in line with one of the main thrusts of Bush's reelection campaign, the White House Wednesday put Bush's visit to France, to commemorate the D-Day landings in Normandy, in the context of the war on terrorism.

"The Normandy invasion stands as an historic achievement, in which the forces of freedom, at great risk and sacrifice, joined together to turn the tide of war against fascism," said White House spokesman McClellan.

"Today, our nations stand together still, equally committed to defeat terrorism and advance the cause of freedom."


© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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