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