Sarkozy wants 'confident and friendly' ties with China
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday called for "confident and friendly" relations with China as he wrapped up a state visit aimed at putting past tensions over Tibet to rest.
Sarkozy, who finished his trip in Shanghai for the opening gala of the World Expo, said Paris wanted to expand cooperation with Beijing on a number of fronts, but would remain "attentive" to problems faced by business people in China.
"I wanted to come... because we should have confident and friendly relations with China," Sarkozy said Friday.
"There have been in the past some difficulties, some misunderstandings, and we worked hard to dispel these misunderstandings without giving up our beliefs," he added, alluding to the heated row over Tibet.
Relations hit a low point in 2008 when the French president expressed shock at a Chinese security crackdown in Tibet in March and later met the Dalai Lama, the Chinese-ruled region's exiled spiritual leader.
But during his visit, Sarkozy called China a "strategic partner" and said he would work with President Hu Jintao on a variety of issues, from the Iranian nuclear standoff to global monetary reform.
On Iran, Sarkozy told the Chinese leader that while dialogue was still an option with Tehran, sanctions had to be considered as a last resort if the Islamic republic refused to cooperate with the international community.
"China hopes to use dialogue to solve this problem. France completely understands China, and we are willing to discuss this problem together at an appropriate time," Chinese state media quoted Sarkozy as saying.
"But if dialogue does not work, then we can only use sanctions," he added at a joint media appearance with Hu on Wednesday.
China -- one of the five permanent members of the 15-member UN Security Council -- has so far been reluctant to embrace tough new punitive action.
Sarkozy seemed eager to mend fences, steering clear of several sensitive issues in his public appearances.
He refrained from adding to pressure on China to allow the yuan to appreciate, saying it was better to focus on an overhaul of the global monetary system.
"France's belief is that it is totally unproductive to make accusations against one another. It is far more intelligent to prepare the necessary evolution of the monetary system in the 21st century," he said.
The French leader also did not speak publicly on human rights concerns, such as the treatment of political dissidents or religious freedom.
But he said he had expressed to Premier Wen Jiabao in their meeting earlier Friday in Beijing his "concern" about the difficulties of doing business in China, especially with respect to intellectual property rights.
"I believe that friendship is made from reciprocity," he said.
Earlier Friday in Beijing, authorities closed off the Forbidden City, the ancient imperial palace in the heart of the capital across from Tiananmen Square, for the visit by the French leader and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
Sarkozy, sporting a dark suit and tie, and his wife, in a grey trouser suit and dark round glasses, strolled around the sprawling grounds for about 45 minutes, accompanied by security personnel.
France's first couple has included several sightseeing stops on the trip, including a visit to the ancient capital Xian to see the 2,200-year-old terracotta warriors, a tour of the Great Wall and a visit to the Ming Tombs.
Sarkozy was set to return to France later Friday after the Expo opening gala.
© 2010 AFP