WASHINGTON – French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed warmer relations with the United States — and emphasized his country's appreciation for American sacrifices in World War II — in a message readied for Congress Wednesday.
"Our friendship and our alliance is strong," he said in remarks prepared for a joint meeting of the House and Senate, taking a statement of goodwill to Capitol Hill a day after celebrating a new and cozier era in U.S.-French relations at a White House dinner with President Bush.
Sarkozy came to Washington seeking to restore the kind of strong relationship that existed between Paris and Washington before sharp differences arose over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
In his prepared remarks to lawmakers in the chamber of the House of Representatives, Sarkozy highlighted France's long friendship with the United States. On this U.S. visit, his words — as well as his demeanor — have contrasted sharply with the style of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who publicly clashed with Bush over Iraq.
Sarkozy expressed gratitude in the prepared speech for the U.S. role in liberating France from Nazi occupation in World War II.
"I want to tell you that whenever an American soldier falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American army did for France," he said. "I think of them, and I am sad, as one is sad to lose a member of one's family."
Sarkozy's address to Congress highlights the improved relations. In 1996, many U.S. lawmakers boycotted a similar appearance by Chirac to protest France's nuclear testing in the South Pacific.
Bush and Sarkozy dined at the White House Tuesday night and were traveling later Wednesday to Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George Washington, the first U.S. president.
In his toast Tuesday night, Bush did not mention France's opposition to the war. Instead, he spoke of working with France to help others around the world resist tyranny and oppression.
"French and American troops are helping defend a young democracy in Afghanistan," said Bush.