Obama, Sarkozy scotch talk of bad chemistry
The leaders of France and the United States put on an elaborate show this week to quash talk of bad chemistry between them.Washington – First names only, floods of compliments and a shared weakness for hot dogs: Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy put on an elaborate show this week to quash talk of bad chemistry between the leaders of France and the United States.
The two presidents stood shoulder to shoulder at a news conference called after one-hour-plus talks in the Oval Office on Tuesday, calling for swift new UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.
But each also devoted long minutes to an exchange of courtesies and jokes, seemingly designed to scotch niggling reports their relationship was awkward, even cold, and that Obama had at times been "irritated" by the French leader.
Obama insisted he was "delighted" to welcome his "dear friend" and his supermodel wife Carla Bruni, the first presidential couple to join the Obamas for dinner in their private quarters at the White House.
The US president slipped in an ice-breaking mention that the Sarkozys had taken time out to stop by an historic Washington food joint, "Ben's Chili Bowl," which he himself has visited.
"My understanding is he had a half-smoke. He was sampling the local wares and we appreciate that very much," the US president joked as he praised the "discriminating palate" of the French leader who he addressed as "Nicolas".
"I had a good friend in Washington who had actually recommended that restaurant," Sarkozy quipped in return.
European observers argued last year that Sarkozy had not received the kind of close attention from Obama consistent with France's status as a major ally, during two visits by the US leader to France.
The White House repeatedly dismissed talk of a snub, but Obama seized a new chance to talk up the quality of their ties, thanking Sarkozy and his country for their "hospitality" towards himself -- and his young daughter Sasha.
"I don't think that Sasha will ever forget celebrating her eighth birthday at the Elysee palace with the president of France," he said, looking back at his "family's wonderful visit to Paris last summer."
Sarkozy visibly glowed as Obama went on to praise his "extraordinary leadership" -- repeating the word three times -- on the economy, deforestation or the "historic step" of bringing France back into NATO's military command.
"I immediately came to admire your legendary energy," Obama gushed as he recalled his first meeting with Sarkozy in 2006, praising the French leader's "eloquent" speech to the US Congress the following year.
Far from frosty, relations between the historic allies have never been so close, Sarkozy insisted in return, junking reports that the Elysee and White House had a fraught working relationship.
"Why is it so easy for us to work together? Firstly because when President Obama says something, he keeps his word. His word is his bond. When he can deliver, he says so. When he can't he says so too."
"Rarely in the history of our two counties has the community of views been so identical between the US and France," he said.
Sarkozy said he was in "constant discussion" with Obama on issues ranging from Paris' resumption of dialogue with Syria -- "at no point has President Obama turned his back on what we were doing" -- to relations with Moscow.
"Before even we inform our Russian partners, I pick up the phone and call President Obama," the president said.
"There may be disagreements, but never for the wrong reasons. And as we are very transparent on both sides, there's confidence, there's trust," he said before walking out with the US president, hands over each other's shoulders.
AFP / Expatica