WASHINGTON – France's Defense Minister criticized "certain radical neoconservative ideas" in the United States as harmful to U.S. relations with Europe.
While France remains a major partner of the United States, Minister Michele Alliot-Marie (search) singled out on Friday what she called American aspirations for economic supremacy as well as assertions of cultural and political supremacy.
The French official did not identify whom she held responsible for asserting such views. "It is essential we recognize others' positions" as part of a trans-Atlantic discourse, she said.
In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (search), a private research group, Alliot-Marie emphasized that Europeans had "a different sensibility" from the United States toward the Arab-Muslim world.
Outlining the views of France, she said while terrorism is a great threat, its causes must be addressed, which she identified as "the sense of frustration in the face of injustice and poverty."
"The humiliation is exploited by fanatics," Alliot-Marie said, while urging "let us work together to eradicate blind violence, but also its roots."
France is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel, the defense minister said, while implicitly holding Israel accountable. "We should be listening more to the Arab-Muslim world," she said.
"The sense of injustice and humiliation is really very widespread," she said.
Overall, Alliot-Marie's message was one of working together with the United States on international security.
"It is something of a paradox that France should sometimes be stigmatized in Washington as a strategic adversary of the United States," the minister said.
"To listen to some quarters, France is supposed to be trying to develop a counterweight to the United States, especially through European integration," she said. "Nothing strikes me as being further from reality."
France and the Bush administration have been at odds over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which France tried to block at the United Nations with calls for more weapons searches in preference to going to war.
But France has cooperated with the United States in promoting economic recovery in Afghanistan. "Faced with the difficulties the U.S. is encountering in certain parts of the world, it needs the support of its European allies," she said.
Later Friday, Alliot-Marie met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) at the United Nations in New York. Afterward, she told reporters it was clear from her meetings in Washington with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the United States wanted to look to the future.
"It was very clearly expressed that there is a commitment now to turn the page ... and to turn to the future to see how we can carry out cooperation between France and the United States," Alliot-Marie said.
She said it is import for the international community to ensure a successful transition in Iraq to an Iraqi government from the current U.S. administration.
"France stated that it was ready to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq when there would be a legitimate Iraqi government that would have recovered its sovereignty ... and on the request of that government," she said.
"There will be no question," she said, "of sending French military personnel to Iraq."