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French President-elect Looks to Improve U.S. Relations

Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy won France's presidential run-off election Sunday, and he has vowed to mend frayed relations with the United States. Margaret Warner reports from France on the impacts of his win.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Over the weekend, French voters chose a new president, who promised change at home and abroad. In his victory speech last night, Nicolas Sarkozy talked of how he would repair recently frayed relations with the United States.

  • NICOLAS SARKOZY, President-Elect, France (through translator):

    I want to issue an appeal to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship, which has been forged in the tragedies of history, which we have faced together.

    I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they need it. But I also want to tell them that friendship means accepting that your friends may think differently and that a great nation such as the United States has a duty not to put obstacles in the way of the fight against global warming.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Margaret Warner, continuing her coverage of the French elections, was at Sarkozy's rally last night. I spoke with her this afternoon from Paris.

    Margaret, it's good to see you again. Nicolas Sarkozy sounded last night like he was extending an olive branch with one hand and a warning to the United States with another. What did it sound like in the room?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Well, in the room and also among French officials and American officials here in Paris, it was actually very much welcomed.

    That is that France and the United States, while they've cooperated actually a great deal on terrorism, on Iran, on Afghanistan, it has not been a warm relationship ever since the rupture that occurred over the onset of the Iraq war, when France not only opposed the United States in the U.N., but tried to organize other countries to vote against the war resolution.

    So both American and French officials have used the same phrase, which is "a page will be turned." And the view is that Sarkozy is not going to roll over for the United States, but he is saying that he wants a new kind of relationship in which the United States and France together try to approach some thorny problems and try to come up with common policies, rather than, really, what's the case now, in which each country decides on its own national interests, and then they try to square the circle.

    So it was really notable that, in such a short acceptance speech, that he, in fact, talked about the United States in the way he did.

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