WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Monday welcomed the election of French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy, a pro-American conservative, as an opportunity to strengthen relations with France.
"We certainly look forward to cooperation with the French," White House press secretary Tony Snow said Monday. "And we know that there are going to be areas of disagreement. But on the other hand, there are certainly real opportunities to work together on a broad range of issues."
Sarkozy was elected president of France Sunday with a mandate to chart a new course for an economically sluggish nation struggling to incorporate immigrants. He reached out to the United States in his victory speech, a sign of his desire to break the tension of U.S.-French relations that took hold under the outgoing leader, Jacques Chirac, particularly over the war in Iraq.
Sarkozy plans to take over for Chirac on May 16.
Bush called Sarkozy over the weekend to congratulate him. Snow described it as a brief phone call, and said the two leaders would have a chance to start working together at next month's G8 summit in Germany.
Bush always hopes for close relations with France, despite some friction with Paris now and then, Snow said.
For his part, Sarkozy also made it clear in his victory speech that France would remain an independent voice. The United States, he declared, can "count on our friendship," but he added that "friendship means accepting that friends can have different opinions."