Rice predicts 'excellent' relations with Sarkozy

27th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2007 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came away very pleased from her first meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy and members of his cabinet, and predicted "a really excellent relationship" between the United States and France.

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2007 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came away very pleased from her first meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy and members of his cabinet, and predicted "a really excellent relationship" between the United States and France.

Rice met Sarkozy in Paris Monday ahead of an international conference on Darfur. On her flight home from her two-day visit to France, she told reporters Tuesday that the French leader wanted "the strongest possible relationship with the US."

"We are going to have differences," she added, but "I think they want to really invigorate US-French cooperation." She cited France's decision to keep its troops in Afghanistan and step up its training of an Afghan army.

"These were strong signals that they want a very strong relationship, so I think it will be a really excellent relationship," Rice said.

Rice also met in Paris with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, with whom she spent a great deal of time Monday during an international conference on Kosovo.

She was also given a "magnificent" reception by French Defense Minister Herve Morin, complete with a rendering of the Marseillaise. "I don't know about you, but the French national anthem is still stirring to me," she told reporters.

Rice was regaled with lavish attention throughout her visit to Paris. At the Elysee Palace, Sarkozy gave her a bouquet of flowers, at the Quai d'Orsay, Kouchner kissed her on both cheeks.

In return, Rice said the United States would be forever indebted to France for the support of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who served as a general in the US war of independence against Britain in the late 18th century.

"I think some would say that there might not have been a United States of America but for your help," she said during a joint press conference Sunday with Kouchner.

US-French relations turned sour after French president Jacques Chirac threatened to veto a UN resolution authorizing the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

They improved greatly with US President George W. Bush's visit to France two years ago, and blossomed further with the May 6 election of Sarkozy, who from the start of his campaign advocated better relations with Washington.

Rice aides said the level of confidence rose even more when Sarkozy picked Kouchner as his top diplomat, since his interest in humanitarian causes matches the Bush administration's efforts in defending freedom worldwide.

Other reassuring signs, the officials said, include what Rice called Sarkozy's "very strong interest in Lebanon," and his promise not to resume serious dialogue with Syria, at least for the time being.

"President Chirac's administration had a very strong interest in Lebanon and I think that this Sarkozy administration is signaling that they will to have a very strong interest in Lebanon and continue to work with the US on behalf of the democratically elected government" of President Fuad Siniora, Rice said Tuesday.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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