NEW YORK — French President Jacques Chirac arrived here yesterday afternoon ahead of the U.N. General Assembly’s annual debate and went to southern Manhattan, where he laid flowers in memory of the September 11 attack victims.
Flanked by Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and a light security detail, the French leader traveled to Battery Park to visit a memorial erected to the about 2,800 people who died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Mr. Chirac, whose government opposed the U.S.-led war that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, received a warm welcome from passers-by and a fireman as he walked through the neighborhood.
Shouts of “Welcome” and “Long live Chirac; we like you a lot” in the president’s native language emerged from a watching crowd.
Joe Torrillo, a firefighter injured in the attacks, had a photograph taken with the French leader.
“God bless you,” Mr. Torrillo said to Mr. Chirac.
The French president was the first head of state to visit New York and Washington in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
But Mr. Chirac has not visited the United States since relations between the two countries deteriorated over France’s opposition to the war in Iraq. For his part, Mr. Bush put in only a perfunctory appearance at the Group of Eight summit in June in France.