- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

PARIS — To the world, President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy sends this message: France is back.

Mr. Sarkozy said in his victory speech that his France will stand up against tyranny, dictators and fundamentalist Muslim oppression of women — a global vision more in line with President Bush than Jacques Chirac, who defied Washington over Iraq and has been criticized for cozy ties with authoritarian rulers.

By urging the United States to take the lead on fighting global warming, Mr. Sarkozy also signaled that an invigorated friendship with Washington would not mean subservience. His speech Sunday provided comfort to a populace worried that France’s global voice is fading.

“The message was, ‘Don’t take me for granted,’ ” said Francois Heisbourg, a leading specialist on French strategic and foreign policy. “This was wise in terms of domestic policies, but also in terms of the overall relationship. He was saying, ‘I’m not going to be a poodle.’ ”

Mr. Sarkozy won the presidential runoff on Sunday with a 53 percent vote, ending Socialist Segolene Royal’s hopes of becoming France’s first female president. Mr. Sarkozy, surprisingly, won more support even among women — 52 percent against 48 percent for Miss Royal.

Yesterday, Mr. Sarkozy flew to Malta for a retreat with family to consider his government lineup.

Mr. Sarkozy has won the label “Sarko the American” for openly admiring the get-up-and-go spirit in the United States, and indicated that he would toe a less-accommodating line toward the Arab world than his predecessors — whose close ties to the Middle East were rooted in France’s past as a colonial power in the region.

Overall, though, his campaign gave short shrift to foreign policy, and his limited international experience has left many wondering how he will steer France in global affairs.

Mr. Sarkozy sought to quell that uncertainty in a speech barely 30 minutes after his electoral triumph.

France, he said, will stand alongside “all those persecuted by tyranny, by dictatorships.” He reached out to “all those in the world who believe in the values of tolerance, freedom, democracy and humanism.”

“France will not abandon women who are condemned to the burqa,” the full head-and-body covering worn by women in Afghanistan and some Muslim women in Britain and elsewhere, he said. He did not elaborate on how that would translate into policy.

Mr. Sarkozy was a member of the government that instituted a law banning head scarves and other “ostentatious” religious apparel in classrooms.

In his speech, he appealed for all warring parties in the Middle East to “overcome hate.”

“France will be at the side of the world’s oppressed,” he went on. “That is the message of France, that is the identity of France, that is the history of France.”

While some of the language was reminiscent of Mr. Chirac — a fellow conservative and one-time Sarkozy mentor — the message itself was new.

“This is a new generation,” Mr. Heisbourg said. “It is a clear change. It is values, rather than interests. He talked about what the Americans would call ‘democracy promotion.’ ”

Both Mr. Chirac and Mr. Sarkozy say the U.S.-led war in Iraq was a mistake, and the president-elect has called for a deadline for a U.S. pullout. But Mr. Sarkozy has not let that dampen his enthusiasm for the trans-Atlantic relationship: He eagerly met with Mr. Bush in September, drawing criticism from a populace that has had a complex and sometimes bumpy relationship with the United States

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