French President Nicolas Sarkozy was given a warm White House welcome at the start of his first official visit to the United States. Franco-American relations soured after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but observers say the body language before last night’s state dinner shows that both sides want to put the past behind them.
Seen as more pro-US than his predecessor Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy spoke of his plan to win over US hearts and minds:
“I have come to Washington with a very simple message. I want to reconquer the heart of America, and do it in a long-lasting way. I have come here to say one thing to you – that France and the United States are friends, we have and always will be allies.”
Sarkozy is expected to discuss the issue of Iran and its nuclear programme in talks with President George W. Bush, about which they are said to be in close agreement.
But the new entente cordiale could founder over some issues, notably environmental policy and concern over the weakness of the dollar. Sarkozy is due to address a joint session of Congress later today.