Powell Tries to Mend Relations With France

Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) is reaching out again to France to try to overcome differences that were exacerbated by the U.S. war with Iraq.

"The values that pull France and the United States together are far more powerful than any problems that come along and will be surmounted," Powell said at a ceremony.

The State Department is marking the start of a traveling exhibit of the Marshall Plan (search), the program that helped France and other European nations recover from World War II.

The exhibit, which also honors George C. Marshall, the Truman-era secretary of state who developed the massive U.S. assistance program in 1947, will be sent to American colleges and universities. A wing dedicated to Marshall is under construction at the department and a portrait of Marshall, who was Army chief of staff during World War II, will be on display there.

"I have another portrait of Marshall that sits in my outer office, where I receive visitors, and from my inner office, looking through a door into the outer office, every time I look up George C. is looking back as a source of inspiration," Powell said at the ceremony Tuesday night.

The lesson to be learned from the Marshall Plan, he said, is that "partnerships are critical, especially the partnership between America and Europe."

"If we work together, we can do anything, no matter how daunting the task and no matter how long it takes," he said.

Often in disagreement in the Middle East and other areas despite being allies, the United States and France split over whether to go to war with Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein as president.

Without ruling out war as a final option, France preferred extending U.N. searches for the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration said posed a threat. France, with support from Germany and Russia, undercut U.S. efforts to rally backing for the war in the U.N. Security Council.

The searches have never turned up the weapons. France, meanwhile, continues to refuse to contribute troops to a U.S.-led peacekeeping operation in Iraq that is under fire from insurgents.

There was more trouble this week: At an international summit on AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand, French President Jacque Chirac (search) accused the United States of pressuring developing countries to give up their right to make cheap generic HIV drugs in return for free-trade agreements.

Chirac said it was "tantamount to blackmail." A U.S. official, agreeing to respond only on grounds of anonymity, dismissed the allegation as "nonsense."

And last month, at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Chirac said President Bush went "too far" by saying the European Union should admit Turkey.

Chirac said Bush commenting on Turkey's relationship with the European group was like a French leader commenting on U.S.-Mexican ties.

"The best thing about being mad about something is you get over it and you move on and you progress," Powell said. "And France and the United States, despite any disagreements we have had in the past, will never forget the values that pull us together, and we will continue to move on."

Asked Wednesday about Chirac's recent statements, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the relationship was not about "one statement by us or one by them, pro, con, that makes a difference. It's what we do together."

And, Boucher said that France had worked very well with the United States in Haiti and the two had worked well together in Africa. He also said that France had recognized Iraq's interim government and "the French are talking about how they can be involved in assisting in the reconstruction of Iraq."