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De Villepin says France, US ‘very close’

PARIS, Jan 14 (AFP) – Cooperation between France and the United States, which were at loggerheads over the war against Iraq, is “lively and very close”, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in an interview, notably in the fight against extremists.

“Beware of exaggerations or caricatures,” de Villepin told the Sud-Oust newspaper in its Thursday edition. “Our cooperation remains, on many issues, lively and very close.”

De Villepin said he was delighted that “US officials welcomed the exemplary character” of recent joint actions making sure that air transport is safe.

“Everyone can see the will on both sides to work together, in the Middle East and elsewhere,” he said.

But he also noted disagreements on how to resolve international conflicts by either “basing one’s action on force only”, or as France suggests, “on a multilateral basis” that includes the law and the principles of justice, solidarity and dialogue.

Relations between France and the United States have been at rock-bottom since France refused to support the US war to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie is to visit the United States Thursday for the first time since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March.

Alliot-Marie is expected to discuss “bilateral defence relations” with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.


                                Subject: France news