'New era' as Sarkozy to meet Bush in Kennebunkport

9th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, Aug 8, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose election in May put Washington-Paris relations on the mend, will break from his US vacation to meet with President George W. Bush on Saturday, the White House said.

WASHINGTON, Aug 8, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose election in May put Washington-Paris relations on the mend, will break from his US vacation to meet with President George W. Bush on Saturday, the White House said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday the private meeting between the two at the Bush family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine could mark a "new era" in the two countries' relationship.

The two, along with French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy and her US counterpart Laura Bush, will have a private lunch Saturday in the Bush estate on the Atlantic, Snow said.

Sarkozy and his family have been vacationing since last week in Wolfeboro,

New Hampshire, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Kennebunkport.

It will be the first US meeting between the two presidents since Sarkozy took office in May, succeeding Jacques Chirac, who had a chilly relationship with Bush over France's staunch opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Snow said the meeting follows an invitation Bush made to Sarkozy at the G-8 meeting in Germany in early June.

But the White House and France sought to convey an air of informality about the meeting, which has been widely speculated about since Sarkozy and his family arrived quietly at the leafy New England resort town of Wolfeboro on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee last week.

"You've got a new French president who is -- number one, he's vacationing -- he's been vacationing in New Hampshire. He's in the neighborhood," Snow said, explaining how the meeting was arranged.

"Number two, it looks like we're on the verge of a new era of relations with the French, which is a good thing. And the president believes in building personal relationships with other heads of state."

"I'm sure they'll talk about some international matters, but this is not a summit. This is not something with an agenda," Snow insisted.

"You know, he certainly picked a good country to visit, didn't he?," Snow added on Sarkozy's vacation choice.

Both sides hope for a new rapprochement after the Iraq war severely strained bilateral relations.

Sarkozy's image in France is that of an "Atlantist," committed to better relations with France's US ally. His new-breed, conservative ways and a pre-election working trip to the United States led to critics branding him "The American."

After his election he declared that the Americans can "count on the friendship" of the French.

He has been hit by his own supporters as well for saying that France is not "exempt from criticism," and that he wants to engage in dialogue "without arrogance."

At the same time, in January he labelled the war in Iraq "an error."

A smiling, tanned Sarkozy said Sunday in a brief press conference in Wolfeboro that he had chosen the location at the invitation of friends and that he wanted to see "deep America, the forests, lakes, and tranquility."

Hours later, though, he broke out into a rage as US photographers, with permission from the US security detail, shot photographs of Sarkozy and his entourage in a boat on the lake.

The invitation to Kennebunkport is a rare opportunity. Bush spends little time at the home, mostly used by his father, former president George H.W. Bush.

However, last month the two Bushes entertained Russian President Vladimir Putin at the idyllic seaside getaway for a summit, where they went fishing -- with little success -- and sought to hash out grinding differences.


AFP

Subject: French news

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