Sarkozy, Obama to hold talks on security, finance

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US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, will meet at the White House Monday for talks on international security and France's plans for world monetary reform.

The one-day visit by the French leader comes as France embarks on its year at the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) rich and emerging economies, as well as the Group of Eight (G8) powers, during which Sarkozy wants to reform currency and commodity markets and world governance.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss security challenges such as the NATO-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, security in Pakistan and threats from militants that particularly concern France in north Africa.

Sarkozy on Sunday branded as "terrorists" suspected Al-Qaeda-linked kidnappers believed to have killed two Frenchmen in Niger.

"This odious crime will only strengthen France's determination to fight tirelessly against terrorism... Democracies will fight face to face against these barbarians from another age who want to terrorise the whole world," he said.

One of Sarkozy's aides said the president attached "great importance to consulting his big partners" about his leadership this year of the G20 and G8 group of six major Western powers plus Russia and Japan.

"These discussions will allow him to refine the proposals he will make" during a press conference on January 24 dedicated to the G20 and G8 presidency, said the aide, who asked not be named.

On the Group of Eight, "the discussions will notably cover green economic growth, the Internet and partnership with Africa," the aide said, adding that Obama in turn would attend the G8 summit in France in May.

It is Sarkozy's first meeting with Obama since the leaking of sensitive US diplomatic cables by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, which contained some embarrassing revelations for world leaders.

They revealed among other things that US diplomats, while lauding Sarkozy's pro-American stance and his pragmatism, branded him erratic and touchy, with a complex private life.

The United States came in for criticism of its monetary policy at the last G20 gathering in Seoul, but Obama ahead of Monday's meetings highlighted his keenness for economic cooperation.

"As France assumes the presidency of the G8 and the G20 for 2011, the president looks forward to working with President Sarkozy to sustain the global economic recovery and create jobs," said a White House statement last week.

The presidency of the global groups offers Sarkozy a chance to boost his profile at home ahead of his widely expected bid for re-election in 2012.

© 2011 AFP

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