News

Hollande visit reflects stronger U.S.-French ties

Hollande visit reflects stronger U.S.-French ties

FRENCH CONNECTION: U.S., French, and Washington, D.C. flags fly on a light pole across the street from the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 10, in anticipation of a state visit from French President Francois Hollande. Photo: Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – French President Francois Hollande starts a visit to the United States on Monday with spats over U.S. eavesdropping and trade talks with the EU unlikely to chill a relationship now far warmer than before the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Hollande, 59, who split from his partner last month after an affair with an actress, arrives solo for the first state visit hosted by President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in nearly 2-1/2 years.

The United States and France, whose alliance dates to the founding of America in the late 18th century, are working together on Iran, Syria, North Africa and other trouble spots.

The collaboration is a far cry from the strains of a decade ago when France refused to join the Iraq war.

“France is a solid ally of the United States but always retains its independence,” Hollande told Time magazine in an interview published last week.

He made clear that he shared European anger over National Security Agency practices that “should never have existed” and had caused “a difficult moment, not just between France and the United States but also between Europe and the United States”.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said talks to resolve the spying issue were under way.

“There was behavior that wasn’t specifically targeted at France, but it was unacceptable,” he told RTL radio.

“So there are more talks, which are not finished, but gains have been made. The U.S., with checks in place, won’t be able to spy on the president and we’ll verify that this is the case.”

Washington’s relations with the European Union have also been ruffled by a U.S. diplomat’s secretly recorded expletive to disparage the EU’s handling of the political crisis in Ukraine.

The United States and France have cooperated in diplomacy on Syria and Iran, but do not always agree on economic issues such as a U.S.-EU trade deal on which negotiations began in July.

TAX-DODGING SUSPICIONS

France set down several preconditions before allowing the talks to start, insisting that the audio-visual sector, including cinema and books, be excluded from discussions.

French tax authorities have also put U.S. Internet giant Google under audit about accounting procedures which channel sales through Ireland. Google rejects suggestions that this is an attempt at tax-dodging.

Officials say Obama and Hollande have solid working ties.

“During the visit, they will discuss opportunities to further strengthen our shared security, grow our economic and commercial partnership, and partner on the environment, climate change, and development,” the White House said.

Obama will showcase the old U.S.-French alliance by taking Hollande on a tour of the Monticello estate of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president, who had been ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789, acquiring a taste for fine wine.

Jefferson was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. Without French assistance, the fledgling American army might not have defeated the British colonial power.

On Tuesday, after an arrival ceremony on the White House lawn, Obama and Hollande hold talks and a news conference. Hollande will have lunch at the State Department with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Both leaders could use any glow from the visit to lift their popularity at home.

Hollande, struggling to reduce unemployment, fell to his lowest approval rating last week with only 19 percent according to a TNS Sofres-Sopra Group poll. Obama saw his rating drop to about 40 percent after the rocky rollout of his healthcare law, but it has rebounded slightly since.

(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in Paris; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Recent Headlines

in Local Sports

Eight straight for Vikings after 110-77 win over Simon Fraser

Fresh
wwu story 2-26-15

Parker scores career-high 31 as Vikings roll

in Local Sports

Sabres stun Canucks 6-3 on Mitchell’s 2 goals

Fresh
FILE - In this file photo taken Sept. 17, 2012, the NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators practice rink in Nashville, Tenn. The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, and if a deal with the players' association isn't reached soon the whole season could be lost. The league wiped out all games through Dec. 30 in its latest round of cancellations. Negotiations between the league and the players' association broke off last week, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday the sides are trying to restart talks this week.

Torrey Mitchell scored a pair of goals as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Vancouver Canucks 6-3 on Thursday night.

in Local Sports

Former Mariner Michael Saunders injures knee, out until July

michael saunder from caravan headshot

Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Michael Saunders stepped on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls, tearing cartilage in his left knee and sidelining him until the All-Star break.

in Local Sports

Former Hawks QB Hasselbeck re-ups with Colts

NFL logo on the field before an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.

Matt Hasselbeck agreed Thursday to a one-year contract extension to back up Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

in Local

Driver dies in fatal Grandview crash with semi truck

north star grandview fatal

Grandview at North Star road closed both directions