Tags: U.S. | France | Celebrate | Ties | After | Iraq | Discord

U.S., France Celebrate Ties After Iraq Discord

Monday, 25 June 2007 12:00 AM

PARIS -- The United States and France, whose relations soured over the Iraq war, underlined close links as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her first visit to Paris since Nicolas Sarkozy became president.

Sarkozy is an avowed U.S. friend and Washington hopes Rice's two-night stay in Paris, a relatively long visit for the top U.S. diplomat, will mark a new turn in U.S.-French ties strained by former French president Jacques Chirac's opposition to the 2003 Iraq war.

Rice's visit was timed to coincide with a meeting Sarkozy convened on Darfur, where U.S. officials felt that the previous French government did too little to help stop what the United States has called genocide in the western Sudan region.

Rice had extensive talks with Sarkozy as well as the French foreign and defense ministers on global issues including Iran, Iraq, the Middle East and Kosovo.

"The more we work together, the better things will be and the more we are together, the stronger we will be," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a joint news conference on Sunday before hosting a dinner for Rice.

"On a great many topics of current events, we had a chance to see how close we are. At times, we did not see things eye to eye. It is good, among friends, to speak frankly," he added.

Rice was equally effusive, offering "great congratulations" to Sarkozy on his election victory.

She also praised Kouchner for his work with Medecins Sans Frontieres - the aid group he co-founded - which she described as "one of the finest organizations ... ever created."

Analysts said the cordiality should not obscure the many areas where the two countries disagree, including French misgivings about NATO expansion, U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe and U.S. support for Israel.

"There is a new climate ... There is a new sense of confidence but it's more in the tone and in the style than necessarily in the content," said Dominique Moisi, senior counselor to the French Institute of International Relations.

"Psychologically, there is a sense in the United States that there is a new France with an ally of Washington at the helm. At the same time, in France, I don't think the perception of the Bush administration has changed," he added.

"To confirm that change of atmosphere, you should wait for a new president in Washington and ideally one from the Democratic party."

In their public dealings, however, U.S. and French officials were nothing if not warm.

Kouchner kissed Rice on each cheek as they wrapped up their news conference, giving photographers an image to accompany the idea of France and the United States kissing and making up after the Iraq war even though that process began years ago.

The French foreign minister beamed when Rice went out of her way to note French support for the American revolution, telling Kouchner that "there might not have been a United States of America but for your help."

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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PARIS -- The United States and France, whose relations soured over the Iraq war, underlined close links as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her first visit to Paris since Nicolas Sarkozy became president. Sarkozy is an avowed U.S. friend and Washington hopes...
U.S.,,France,Celebrate,Ties,After,Iraq,Discord
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2007-00-25
Monday, 25 June 2007 12:00 AM
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