US, France cement friendship on state visit

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French President Francois Hollande (left) and United States President Barack Obama visit Monticello, the residence of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) in Charlottesville. AFP PHOTO

French President Francois Hollande (left) and United States President Barack Obama visit Monticello, the residence of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) in Charlottesville. AFP PHOTO

WASHINGTON, D.C.: United States (US) President Barack Obama will on Tuesday highlight a new national security dimension to America’s oldest alliance as he deploys the full pageantry of a state visit for France’s President Francois Hollande.

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A 21-gun salute and full military honors await Hollande on the chilly South Lawn of the White House, before a day of talks on issues ranging from Iran to climate change, trade to combating Islamist threats.

Later, Obama and Hollande will toast what the French leader described as a forever friendship forged during a time of revolution more than 200 years ago.

But Hollande will be flying solo at the state dinner in a huge marquee sumptuously decorated with French accents, amid turmoil in his love life which made global headlines.

The authenticity of the Franco-US alliance, often tumultuous, lies in its resilience: ties are now tightening a decade after they ruptured over Iraq.

Washington has welcomed and provided logistical support for France’s interventions to quell the spread of Islamic militants in Africa’s Sahel region. The allies are also key players in the group of world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, and blame President Bashar al-Assad for gross atrocities in Syria.

France was also to the fore in a military adventure in its own neigh–borhood in the Libya operation, which overthrew Moamer Kadhafi after an initial US bombardment.

Hollande opened his three-day visit to the US with a rare flight for a foreign leader aboard Air Force One.

The presidents then toured the Virginia homestead of Thomas Jefferson, seeking to forge a personal bond in richly symbolic surroundings.

Obama said Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Inde–pendence, ambassador to France and the third US president, represented “what’s best in America.”

“But as we see as we travel through his home, what he also represents is the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States, because he was a Francophile through and through.”

AFP

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