- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

French President Jacques Chirac telephoned President Bush yesterday for their first conversation since Feb. 7, when France angered the White House by trying to block military action against Iraq.
The conciliatory overture was not warmly received by Mr. Bush, whose second U.N. Security Council resolution against Iraq was scuttled with Mr. Chirac's help.
"Would you call it a positive conversation?" a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
"From the president's point of view, he would call it a businessslike conversation," the spokesman said.
Mr. Fleischer suggested the president's relationship with Mr. Chirac remains worse than the relationship between the people of the United States and France.
However, he portrayed Mr. Bush as tolerating Mr. Chirac for the sake of broader Franco-American relations.
"The president knows that despite what was a very overt difference with France about how to deal with military issues in Iraq that we are still allies, share common values," Mr. Fleischer said.
"That is what links the people of the United States to the people of France, that more than anything else," he said. "And so the president always is mindful of that."
During the 20-minute conversation, Mr. Chirac reiterated his opposition to the war, said his spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna. But he seemed to soften his demand for a central role by the United Nations in postwar Iraq, saying that France is willing to adopt a "pragmatic approach."
"France believes that the international community should give itself the best possible chance and thus make room for the United Nations as soon as possible," she said. "It's in the interests of everyone."
It was the second time in recent days that Mr. Chirac tried to mend his tattered relationship with the U.S.-led coalition that vanquished Saddam Hussein.
On Saturday, the French leader expressed hope that Paris and Washington "can rebuild our unity around the values that all great democracies share."
Mr. Bush was careful not to completely freeze out the French leader. He still plans on traveling to France next month to attend a Group of Eight economic summit.
The summit was just one of many issues the president and Mr. Chirac discussed yesterday.
"The two had a wide-ranging phone call," Mr. Fleischer said. "The president talked about Iraq, and his confidence that conditions in Iraq will be better than they were before the war as a result of our efforts there.
"The two also discussed the situation in Syria, and they agreed that Syria should not harbor Iraqi leaders," he said. "They also discussed the situation in the Middle East and the road map for peace. The president said that the hoped to be able to release the road map soon."
Miss Colonna said the leaders also discussed Iraq's abundant oil reserves and international sanctions that remain in effect against the struggling nation.
She added that they talked about the administration and reconstruction of Iraq and plans for an interim government.
Finally, the French leader expressed condolences for the deaths of more than 100 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Mr. Chirac was not the only antiwar leader who tried to mend fences yesterday with the coalition that liberated Iraq, which was led by the United States and Britain.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the bond between Berlin and London is strong enough to survive prewar disagreements.
"It's always good for mankind when a dictator is removed," Mr. Schroeder told reporters in Hanover, Germany, where the two leaders met.
Mr. Schroeder was upbeat about repairing Germany's relationship with America.
"No matter what the differences of opinion were before, it goes without saying healthy trans-Atlantic relations are necessary, and we will work towards that aim in the future," he said.
The German leader also downplayed differences over the U.N. role in postwar Iraq.

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