Sarkozy criticised for courting US

Paris: Conservative presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has come under fierce criticism for heaping praise on the United States, with rivals denouncing his pro-American stance as unworthy of a French leader.

While French politicians are traditionally cool towards America, Sarkozy spent much of a recent trip to New York and Washington extolling the virtues of the US way of life.

The visit culminated in a brief meeting with the US president, the encounter immortalised in a single photograph showing a grinning Sarkozy clasping George W. Bush’s hand.

Iraq war

Sensing a political gaffe, his foes have leapt on the trip to suggest that Sarkozy, who is France’s interior minister, did not have the right mettle to represent the country abroad. “My diplomatic policy would not consist of going and kneeling in front of George Bush,” Socialist presidential front-runner Segolene Royal said yesterday.

“When Nicolas Sarkozy lines up with George Bush, does that mean that he sanctions wars, that he accepts this theory of a war of good against evil, that he tolerates all these efforts to destabilise the world? We can’t accept that and moreover France cannot accept it,” she said.

France’s relations with the United States have not yet fully recovered from the 2003 Iraq war, when French President Jacques Chirac led international opposition to the invasion and rejected Bush’s assertions that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction.

Although Sarkozy also opposed the Iraq war, he told his US hosts last week that France had been too “arrogant” in the build up to the war and promoted himself as a more loyal friend.


“I’m not a coward. I’m proud of this friendship and I’m happy to proclaim it,” said Sarkozy, who has used a string of trips to establish his foreign policy credentials.

Although Sarkozy is a senior member of the government, he is running his presidential campaign as though he were an outsider, promising voters a clean break with the Chirac past.

His warm overtures to Washington appeared to be a calculated bid to reach out to “middle” France which has always embraced American culture more warmly than the Paris elite.

“My diplomatic policy would not consist of going and kneeling in front of George Bush.” Analysis

Sarkozy has certainly stired the French politics over the past few yearsand he is probably the next President of France, breaking thus decades of political tradition that kept this priviledged position for the Paris elite. He seems to follow a more pro-American stance than his fellow politicians, but the interests of France have always been of Atlantist nature, therefore he is actually a politician of the centre of France’s political life. Should he unfolds a concrete political platform on immigration , crime and relations between France and USA-Regardles of the actual content- he is surely the favorite for the Paris Elysse. Watch out for fierce attacks against Sarkozy from the extreme left and the extreme right over the coming months. Also it is fair to assume that Sarkozy is going to play a douple play in the Muslim world. Firstly against the Turkish membership in the EU and at a second level cultivation of political ties with the moderate leaders of the Magreb.

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