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French president loves bush america { November 7 2007 }

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November 7, 2007
Sarkozy Throws Open His Arms to Bush, and U.S.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 — France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, burst onto the Washington scene on Tuesday, clearly reveling in his first official visit to the White House and asking the United States to embrace him as a friend.

Mr. Sarkozy has met President Bush several times, so the brief visit was a vehicle for Mr. Bush to reward him for his friendship and for the French leader to introduce himself and his team to official Washington.

Setting aside the recent anger he has shown because of his divorce, Mr. Sarkozy backslapped and hugged his way through the day. He also proclaimed his determination to be a reliable partner of the United States.

“I come to Washington to bear a very simple message, a message that I bear on behalf of all Frenchmen,” he said in a toast at a formal White House dinner in his honor. “I want to reconquer the heart of America.”

In his toast, Mr. Bush welcomed his guest with the words “Bienvenue à la Maison-Blanche.”

Earlier in the day Mr. Sarkozy, calling France’s opposition to the American-led war in Iraq “a disagreement,” told the French American Business Council: “I never quite understood why we had to fight with the United States. I never quite got it.”

He also distanced himself from the American presidential race, saying, “Regardless of who is president — male or female — we will work hand in hand together.”

Mr. Sarkozy arrived in Washington without a spouse but with some of the women who reflect the diversity of his cabinet: Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, a former chairman of a Chicago-based law firm, Baker & McKenzie; Justice Minister Rachida Dati, who has a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother; and Rama Yade, his 31-year-old Senegalese-born subminister of foreign affairs and human rights, whom Mr. Sarkozy calls his “Condi Rice.”

At a reception at the French Embassy, he announced that he would take the women to the black-tie dinner in his honor at the White House, saying that they and the rest of his cabinet represent “a new France.”

Among the other members of his party were the chef Guy Savoy, holder of three Michelin stars; Henri Loyrette, director of the Louvre; and several members of the French Parliament.

Mr. Sarkozy awarded the Legion of Honor on Tuesday to seven World War II veterans, including Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, who, as a 20-year-old lieutenant, lost an arm leading an attack in Italy in 1945.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sarkozy will address a joint meeting of Congress, as his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, did before him, before having lunch and holding a news conference with Mr. Bush at George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. He will also meet with American Jewish leaders.

The entire visit is to last 26 hours.

“Sarko l’Américain,” as he is called, is considered the most pro-American French president in decades. The son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French-Greek woman whose father was Jewish, he unabashedly confesses his admiration for the United States, particularly its work ethic and popular culture.

He told the business council that during his presidential campaign, “I said I was a friend of America, and with that, they elected me — not bad.”

Mr. Sarkozy’s relationship with Mr. Bush is said to be warm, and his tough stance on Iran’s nuclear program — which envisions new punitive sanctions that will hurt French business interests — is welcomed by the White House.

Mr. Sarkozy has brought France closer to the position of the United States on dealing with Afghanistan, where France has troops; the Middle East, where he has called himself a friend of Israel; and Russia. The French leader also supports Washington’s position that the province of Kosovo will eventually become independent of Serbia.

“The tide has really turned in this relationship,” R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, said in a speech in Paris last week.

But Mr. Bush is resigned to the fact that Mr. Sarkozy will do nothing to support the American war effort in Iraq. Mr. Sarkozy sidestepped a question at the business council meeting on an American troop withdrawal, saying: “No one is saying that there should be an immediate, unconditional withdrawal. What we want is that as soon as possible, the Iraqi people can decide their future and secure their unity.”

French officials said that Iraq was not even on their agenda.

Nor is France ready to rejoin the military wing of NATO after a four-decade break, despite Mr. Sarkozy’s flirtation with the idea. He has called the possible admission of Turkey into the European Union, which the Bush administration supports, “nonsensical,” saying that 98 percent of Turkey is in Asia Minor, not Europe. He has sharply criticized Mr. Bush for failing to make the environment a high policy priority, a criticism he repeated Tuesday.

Mr. Sarkozy has also faulted the American health care system, which leaves many Americans uninsured, and the fact that much of America knows and cares little about the rest of the world.

“If I was in love with the American model, I’d go and live there,” he wrote in “Testimony,” his 2006 campaign book. “This is not the case.”

Since Mr. Sarkozy’s divorce from his wife, Cécilia, was announced Oct. 18, he has piled even more events onto his already frenetic schedule.

Cécilia Sarkozy said in interviews following their divorce that she wanted to retreat from the limelight and lead a tranquil life. That doesn’t seem to mean the absence of movement, however. The New York Post on Monday ran a photo of her and her daughter Jeanne-Marie leaving Orsay restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Mr. Sarkozy has refused to speak about the collapse of his marriage. He stormed out of a recent interview on “60 Minutes” when pressed, before the divorce was announced, about Mrs. Sarkozy’s whereabouts.

Yet in “Testimony,” he confessed his hurt that his wife had left him for several months in 2005, saying that openness in explaining the trauma was in order.

“This evolution toward transparency in public life, unimaginable only 10 years ago, has become inevitable today,” he wrote. “So you might as well deal with it head on and not try to dodge it.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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