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Sarkozy US Visit to Include UN, White House

  • Lisa Bryant

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is taking a break from his political troubles at home to head for the United States, where he is expected to hold talks early this week with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama.

President Sarkozy is expected to discuss an array of issues during his visit to the United States on Monday and Tuesday - including the push for tougher sanctions against Iran, the war in Afghanistan and global climate change. Greater regulation of world financial markets is also expected to be high on Mr. Sarkozy's agenda because France will lead next year's G-20 meetings.

The French president's trip will give him a short respite from his problems at home, where a recent public opinion poll shows Mr. Sarkozy's popularity at only 30 percent - his lowest rating since taking office in 2007. Mr. Sarkozy's ruling UMP party was trounced in regional elections last week - reflecting what analysts say is deep voter unhappiness with the president's policies.

Mr. Sarkozy is expected to hold talks in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday before heading to Washington. A highlight of his visit will be a private White House dinner on Tuesday. French officials describe the visit as an opportunity to reinforce personal ties between the U.S. and French presidents.

Mr. Sarkozy can expect to find common ground with Mr. Obama when it comes to pushing for tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran. Both presidents are also pushing for international financial reform in the wake of the global economic downturn. But they remain divided over ways to regulate the financial industry.

Meanwhile, France has not responded to U.S. calls to send more military forces to Afghanistan. The United States has also expressed concern over France's announcement that it will sell four Mistral-class warships to Russia.

In addition, Paris and Washington have been at odds over the contracting of aerial refueling tankers by the U.S. Defense Department.

Earlier this month, Mr. Sarkozy said the Pentagon bidding process did not appear to be competitive. He suggested that it unfairly favored U.S.-based Boeing over European plane maker Airbus.

President Sarkozy's visit to the United States will be closely watched here in Paris. Mr. Obama is very popular in France and bilateral relations are considerably warmer than just a few years ago.