'Sarkozy the American' mulled troops for Iraq: WikiLeaks

1st December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Even before his election, President Nicolas Sarkozy convinced the US he was the most pro-American French leader since the war and even discussed sending French troops to Iraq, leaked cables showed.

The French daily Le Monde, citing a trove of stolen diplomatic cables given it by the activist website WikiLeaks, said Sarkozy wooed US diplomats in Paris long before taking office in 2007 and convinced them he was a firm ally.

"Sarkozy is the French politician who most supports the role of the United States in the world," the US embassy in Paris wrote in a long portrait of the right-wing minister shortly before he announced his presidential run.

"His nickname is 'Sarkozy the American' and his affinity for America is authentic and comes from the bottom of his heart," the memo said, predicting an end to the tense relations under outgoing president, Jacques Chirac.

Sarkzoy made no great secret of his admiration for Washington as he began his presidency, but the French voters who backed him in large numbers might have been surprised by just how closely he supported then US president George W. Bush.

In the most startling extract from the cables, which have yet to appear on the WikiLeaks website and appear in Le Monde in French translation, the US ambassador writes in 2006 that Sarkozy might send French troops to Iraq.

"Sarkozy declared that France and the international community would have to help the United States resolve the situation in Iraq. Perhaps by replacing the American army with an international force," he wrote.

But the US war in Iraq remained extremely unpopular in France, and nothing came of this idea once Sarkozy was elected, although he did send more French troops to Afghanistan and brought France back into full NATO membership.

French voters, and Sarkozy's current political friends and foes, might also be surprised to learn that their president announced his intention to run for office to the US embassy before he did so to his party or the public.

He also, according to the leaked cables, was not afraid to criticise the foreign policy of Chirac's government to his American friends, even while he was interior minister in the outgoing French administration.

© 2010 AFP

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