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Bush Hosts Sarkozy at White House

U.S. President George Bush welcomed French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the White House Tuesday for a social dinner. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the men will meet again Wednesday to discuss Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Afghanistan.

This was the French president's first official visit to Washington, and President Bush invited more than 120 guests to a social dinner in his honor.

Before the meal of lobster bisque, lamb, and white and green asparagus, President Bush offered a toast to the people of France, who he says are some of America's oldest friends.

Mr. Bush recalled the alliance between America's first president, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette who joined the colonies' war of independence from Britain. President Bush says he and President Sarkozy honor the legacy of General Lafayette by helping others resist tyranny and terror.

"French and American troops are helping to defend a young democracy in Afghanistan," said President Bush. "Our two nations support the democratic government of Lebanon. We agree that reconciliation and democracy in Iraq are vital to the future of the Middle East. And our two nations condemn violations of human rights in Darfur, in Burma, and around the world."

President Sarkozy is the most pro-American French leader in decades and is clearing hoping to put behind him the split in Franco-American relations caused by the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

President Sarkozy said the two nations share a unique bond.

"Our peoples resemble one and other and they admire each other and that is precisely why they have this strong bond - an impassioned relation which is not simple but it is always beautiful," said President Sarkozy. "And I also came to say that one can be a friend of American and yet win elections in France."

President Sarkozy spent his first official holiday in the United States, where he was a guest of the Bush family at their home in Maine in August. During this trip to Washington, the French leader highlighted historic ties between the countries by decorating American veterans of the Second World War who helped free France from Nazi occupation.

"You know, I've come to Washington to bear a very simple, straight-forward message, and I bear in on behalf of all Frenchmen and women," he said. "I wish to reconquer the heart of America and I wish to reconquer the heart of America in a lasting fashion."

President Sarkozy addresses a joint meeting of Congress Wednesday before he and President Bush meet at George Washington's home at Mount Vernon south of the capitol.