Sarkozy charms Congress, steers clear of Iraq; U.S. democ­racy praised

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By David R. Sands and Jon Ward

French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy on Nov. 7 con­tin­ued his charm of­fen­sive in the United States with an ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Congress pro­claim­ing the strength of the Franco-Amer­i­can al­liance and ef­fu­sively prais­ing Amer­i­can val­ues, cul­ture, eco­nomic vi­tal­ity and democ­racy.

“What made Amer­ica great was her abil­ity to trans­form her own dream into hope for all mankind,” Mr. Sarkozy told a packed House cham­ber. The 40minute speech, de­liv­ered in French, was in­ter­rupted by ap­plause more than two dozen times and in­spired at least six stand­ing ova­tions.

The French leader played it safe in his re­marks to Congress, mak­ing only pass­ing ref­er­ence to the war in Iraq while work­ing in com­ments about Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, Martin Luther King, U.S. troops killed in World War I and World War II, the Apollo 11 as­tro­nauts, the vic­tims of Septem­ber 11, Elvis Pres­ley and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

Mr. Sarkozy then left Capi­tol Hill to meet with Pres­i­dent Bush at the North­ern Vir­ginia es­tate of the na­tion’s first pres­i­dent, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton.

The lead­ers and their top ad­vis­ers met in the Mount Ver­non man­sion, then spoke with re­porters in an elab­o­rately staged, al­beit brief, out­door press con­fer­ence, where they heaped praise upon each other.

“I have a part­ner in peace,” Mr. Bush said of his coun­ter­part. He called Mr. Sarkozy a leader “who has clear vi­sion, ba­sic val- ues, who is will­ing to take tough po­si­tions to achieve peace.”

Mr. Sarkozy said he and his del­e­ga­tion had been “wel­comed so warmly with so much friend­ship, so much love,” and pro­nounced him­self “deeply moved.”

The his­tor­i­cal set­ting served as a prop for one of Mr. Sarkozy’s fa­vorite mes­sages — that a stronger Franco-Amer­i­can al­liance should be built on the link be­tween the two coun­tries that goes back to the Revo­lu­tion­ary War.

France op­posed the U.S. in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003, and the dis­pute poi­soned re­la­tions un­der Mr. Bush and French Pres­i­dent Jac­ques Chirac.

Mr. Bush said the United States and France “had a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion” on whether the United States should in­vade Iraq.

“But I don’t sense any dif­fer­ence of opin­ion now that a strug- gling democ­racy wants help from those of us who live in the com­fort of free so­ci­eties,” he said.

Mr. Sarkozy, who has crit­i­cized the Iraq war in other set­tings, did not take ex­cep­tion to the com­ment and said he, too, wants to see “a demo­cratic Iraq” emerge.

On Iran, the two lead­ers “ex­changed all the intelligence and in­for­ma­tion we had” about the Is­lamic repub­lic’s quest for nu­clear weapons, Mr. Sarkozy said.

“It is un­ac­cept­able that Iran should have, at any point, a nu­clear weapon,” he said.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Sarkozy also dis­cussed Syr­ian in­flu­ence on the up­com­ing Le­banese elec­tions, as well as an up­com­ing sum­mit in An­napo­lis to seek a so­lu­tion to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict.

Mr. Bush said he wants Le­banon “to serve as an ex­am­ple for the Pales­tini­ans to show them what’s pos­si­ble.”

Mr. Sarkozy spoke spar­ingly at the press con­fer­ence, pre­fer­ring to let his re­marks to Congress re­main prom­i­nent.

Dur­ing that speech, he re­peated France’s strong stand with the United States against an Ira­nian nu­clear bomb and pledged that French troops would re­main with U.S. forces in Afghanistan “for as long as it takes.”

The only hint of con­tro­versy in the speech was raised when Mr. Sarkozy called for the United States “to stand along­side Europe in lead­ing the fight against global warm­ing that threat­ens the de­struc­tion of our planet.”

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers leapt to their feet, cheer­ing and ap­plaud­ing vig­or­ously, while most Repub­li­cans stayed silently in their seats.

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