- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

Getting personal

French Ambassador Pierre Vimont credits a personal relationship French President Nicolas Sarkozy feels for Americans for the vast improvement in U.S.-France diplomacy.

“There is a clear improvement,” the ambassador told editors and reporters at a luncheon at The Washington Times last week. “It is mostly due to Nicolas Sarkozy’s personality and clear commitment to improving relationships between our two countries.”

Mr. Vimont noted that Mr. Sarkozy is a “friend of Americans.”

“There is something personal in that relationship,” he added.

The son of a Hungarian immigrant, Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative, emphasized his pro-American views during the presidential campaign last year. He won the May election with 53 percent of the vote against Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal, who got 46 percent. Within three months, Mr. Sarkozy set off on vacation in August to the United States, first stopping in New Hampshire and then Maine, where he met with President Bush.

Mr. Sarkozy has promised to work closely with the United States, especially on Afghanistan and Iraq. The French have 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. Although he will not dispatch troops to Iraq, Mr. Sarkozy is looking for ways to help the U.S.-led force there, including hosting a conference in Paris to bring together the different political factions in Iraq.

“We have shown we have good will and are ready to help,” Mr. Vimont said.

Relations between the two countries plummeted in 2003, when President Jacques Chirac objected to U.S. plans to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Those were the days of “freedom fries” in Washington.

However, Mr. Chirac began to soothe relations with Mr. Bush when the two leaders met in 2005 and agreed to work jointly on other issues, such as the crisis in Lebanon.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, who delivers an address at Georgetown University on how the British province overcame decades of conflict.

Oussama Romdhani, general director of Tunisia’s External Communication Agency, a presidential Cabinet-level position. He addresses the Middle East Institute on U.S.-Tunisia relations.

Tomorrow

• A political delegation from Pakistan with Mushahid Hussain of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q in Islamabad; Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League-N in Lahore; and Afrasiab Khattak of the Awami National Party in Peshawar. They discuss political violence in Pakistan in a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Wednesday

President Mikhail Saakashvili of the Republic of Georgia, who meets with President Bush and addresses the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Richard J. Goldstone, former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who delivers the 28th annual Philip A. Hart Memorial Lecture at Georgetown University’s Law School.

Thursday

Eleonora Siliprandi, a law professor at Italy’s University of Milan. She discusses the conflicts between European democracy and religion in a briefing sponsored by the Southeast Europe Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Friday

Maria Helena Guimaraes, secretary of education of Sao Paulo, the most populous state in Brazil. She addresses a forum co-sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Partnership for Education Revitalization in the Americas about education reforms in her Brazilian state.

Patrick Doering, a member of the German parliament, who discusses “global threats to our infrastructure” in a briefing hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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