French Friendship

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

French friendship

They love Americans but hate Americans. They are French, after all, which means they are complex and passionate. One of France's greatest admirers of Americans came to Washington yesterday to explain his country and offer frank advice to his American friends.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and leading conservative candidate for president next year, shared some light moments when he addressed the French-American Foundation, but he also emphasized the serious side of his visit this week, while Americans are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

"The relationship between France and the United States is in a class of its own," he said. "I am told that France receives extensive, and rarely positive, coverage in the American press. I'd like to make a confession. The United States is treated the same way in the French press."

However, Mr. Sarkozy admitted, the French love American music and movies.

"They wear American jeans and love American burgers and pizza. .. And all French parents dream of sending their children to an American university," he said.

"You have to understand that the virulence of the press and a portion of the French elite against the United States reflects a certain envy of your brilliant success. Behind the criticism, which is so often based on prejudices and inaccuracies, no one in France would dare to deny the truth: The United States is the world's leading economic, military and monetary power."

Mr. Sarkozy recalled the tension in U.S.-French relations in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"You Americans were struck in the heart on September 11, 2001, and never understood France's opposition to the war in Iraq, which you took as a betrayal," he said. "You must have loathed us then for France to have been the target of such a hostile media blitz."

Those were the days of boycott of French wine and renaming of french fries as "freedom fries" in the congressional cafeteria. France's popularity among Americans was "lower than Libya's at that time," Mr. …