Chirac congratulates Bush, stresses stronger ties

4th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday congratulated US President George W. Bush on his re-election, saying he hoped the two would seize the chance to breathe new life into Franco-US relations.

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday congratulated US President George W. Bush on his re-election, saying he hoped the two would seize the chance to breathe new life into Franco-US relations.

"On behalf of France, and on my personal behalf, I would like to express to you my most sincere congratulations for your re-election to the presidency of the United States of America," Chirac wrote in a letter to Bush.

"I hope that your second term will provide an opportunity to reinforce the Franco-American friendship," the French leader said, according to his office.

"It's in the spirit of dialogue, of mutual esteem and respect that our cooperation, our common fight against terrorism and the actions we are leading together to promote liberty and democracy must continue to develop," he said.

Bush, the incumbent Republican, defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry after a hard-fought campaign. Kerry called Bush to concede after holding out for hours for a miracle win in the key battleground state of Ohio.

The US and French presidents have had a less than warm relationship since Bush elected to go to war in Iraq last year, an invasion staunchly opposed by Chirac.

But Chirac said in his letter to his US counterpart: "We can only find satisfactory solutions to the numerous challenges with which we are confronted today through a close transatlantic partnership."

The French leader told Bush he believed that the two shared the "ambition to bring peace, security and prosperity to as many people as possible, in a spirit of solidarity".

"I'm convinced that together, we can achieve this," Chirac concluded.

Before Tuesday's election, opinion polls showed as many as 90 percent of French people wanted a win for Kerry - a reaction sparked by the bitter split between Washington and Paris over the Iraq war.

But top French politicians suggested the vote result could be positive in that it would provide an impulse for a stronger Europe to counterbalance the US superpower.

"We will only escape these black holes, these wars through the coordinated action of the Americans, the Europeans and the Arab countries," Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said late Wednesday on France 2 television.

While insisting that Washington and Paris remained friends and allies, Barnier readily admitted there were "disagreements" between the two.

On the Iraq crisis, he said: "We won't resolve this crisis with extra soldiers and military operations."

Earlier, Barnier told RTL radio: "It's a new phase which is starting at a very important moment for the world. Europe is acquiring institutional maturity.

Relations between the EU and the US are at a key moment."

"To face a more determined America, we need a strong Europe," said Francois Bayrou of the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF), which is part of Chirac's ruling coalition.

"If we fail to build a strong Europe and if we continue as now to be a Europe divided, in which some nations go one way and the rest another, then the world will be permanently out of balance."

For the opposition Socialists, party leader Francois Hollande also said that the main lesson of the election was the need for a stronger Europe to put up resistance to an America "trying to impose its vision on the world."

"If we are mere spectators at this historic election ... it is because we have not grasped our historic role. And that is a politically strong Europe which is capable of weighing on the destiny of the world. Our future is not the American election, but the European continent," he said.

Further on the left the Green party was more outspoken, describing a Bush victory as "black Tuesday, a day of mourning for democracy, peace and the environment."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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