Hollande: A kinder, gentler France ahead?

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He acknowledged the quick pullout would give logistical hassles to French troops. Advisers say Hollande would try to minimize the fallout on the allies who would need to take up the slack in the area where French forces are deployed.

But an early French pullout could have symbolic consequences or give cover to other countries eager to withdraw. Hollande’s advisers say they are wary of putting undue political strain on Obama ahead of his re-election bid in November.

Hollande, a moderate leftist on the French spectrum, has played up ideological kinship with Obama on issues including pressure on China to ease up on its controls of its yuan currency, or the need for policies aimed at boosting global economic growth.

“Even if we have several differences in approach on NATO or Afghanistan, we are aware that we’re friends and, therefore, partners,” Hollande said of the United States at the news conference.

“France, after the month of May, will share trust with the current leadership of the United States which, on many subjects, has tended to take useful positions in our view,” he said.

However, Hollande has called for a review of Sarkozy’s decision to place France within NATO’s military command in 2009. That decision reversed four decades of an independent-minded French defense policy started under Charles de Gaulle, wary of U.S. military dominance.

France under Sarkozy has taken a relatively tough stance both on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on dissent and Iran’s nuclear ambitions — and Hollande says he has no criticism for those policies.

Hollande has however taken aim at Sarkozy for cozying up to both Assad and Gadhafi earlier in his term, before turning against them.

Sarkozy has been unafraid to employ French military forces: He put France alongside Britain, under Prime Minister David Cameron, in a leading role in the NATO-led air campaign that helped topple Gadhafi last year. And French forces in Ivory Coast opened fire last year on forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo, who had clung to power despite an election loss.

Sarkozy’s foreign minister, Alain Juppe, has raised the possibility of France pushing for a Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced militarily, against Syria’s regime if it fails to comply with terms of a cease-fire plan led by special envoy Kofi Annan.

Would a Hollande presidency be as tough abroad?

Jean-Louis Bianco, a Socialist Party lawmaker who was President Francois Mitterrand’s longtime chief-of-staff, said Hollande “of course” could envision the use of force abroad — as long as authorized through the United Nations.

“We have to give the Annan plan all the chance it needs,” said Bianco, perhaps the best-known name on Hollande’s team of foreign policy advisers, in a telephone interview.

The author of a 2008 parliamentary report on Iran, Bianco said international sanctions against the Islamic regime over its controversial nuclear program are having an impact.

“Our line would be one of great firmness,” he said, but insisted France would invariably oppose military action even if Iran builds a nuclear weapon. “We won’t support an Israeli or American military action in Iran … An Israeli strike won’t prevent the Iranians from continuing” their program, he said.

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