Respect vital to France-US relations

20th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 20 (AFP) - France wants "stronger cooperation" based on mutual respect with the new US administration, Paris said Thursday as US President George W. Bush was sworn in for a second four-year term.

PARIS, Jan 20 (AFP) - France wants "stronger cooperation" based on mutual respect with the new US administration, Paris said Thursday as US President George W. Bush was sworn in for a second four-year term.

"A new administration around President Bush is being put in place. We hope for stronger cooperation," Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told a parliamentary debate on transatlantic relations.

"We hope that President Bush's trip in February (to Europe) will be a success so we can advance the transatlantic cooperation that brings needed balance to the world," he said.

Bush is expected to visit Brussels at the end of February to meet EU leaders and NATO officials.

Raffarin said the European Union needed to rapidly develop further a political entity "because Europe participates in that balance in the world which is the only true guarantee of peace."

While France and the United States have had "a number of disagreements ... we want to overcome them as friends and we hope that dialogue will be deepened."

The French, he said, "have not forgotten what they owe the American people. The American people are allies."

Earlier Thursday, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said France and the United States must have a relationship of respect.

"It is not just France that must make concessions. A new relationship means that we respect each other. We are allies," he told CNN television in an interview.

"The French want to move on, and so do the Americans. To do that our discussions must be open, direct and clear. Each must take a step to the other," he said.

"Alliance is not submission and we can disagree on certain subjects. We didn't agree on Iraq. I say and repeat that President (Jacques) Chirac's state of mind and my own is to look ahead and not in the rear-view mirror."

The French foreign minister added: "The US can't be alone to face the challenge of terrorism, poverty, development, instability in the world - we need to be together."

Chirac staunchly opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and spearheaded the anti-war camp within the United Nations, angering Bush and contributing to a crisis in transatlantic relations.

Tensions have since subsided, with both sides now preparing for a Chirac visit to Washington.

Referring to the widespread criticism of France in the US press during and after the war, Barnier said "It is not fair always to make a caricature of France. Just because the French say something, it doesn't mean it is wrong."

Calling the American people "lucid, realistic and pragmatic", the minister said it was Bush's responsibility to act on a wide range of issues during the next four years, and that he believed the US president would deliver.

"We have to see that the alliance between Europeans and Americans is vital, and it should serve peace, freedom and democracy," he told CNN.

Asked about the eventual presence of French soldiers in Iraq, Barnier reiterated that Paris would not send military personnel to the strife-torn country "now or later".

The French minister however said Paris was willing to participate in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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