U.S. upbeat on election of new French leader

Nicolas Sarkozy represents a new day in relations, the White House says.

Published May 8, 2007

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is practically jumping for joie.

Four years after often tense relations with France plummeted to new lows over the war in Iraq, President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy's victory at the polls on Sunday to succeed Jacques Chirac led to much talk on Monday in Washington of a new closeness with Paris.

On a day that President Bush welcomed Britain's Queen Elizabeth II to the White House for a state visit, U.S. officials appeared almost giddy at the prospect of improved ties with France, which sided with American colonists against the British more than 200 years ago.

"We certainly look forward to cooperation with the French, " White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "We know that there are going to be areas of disagreement. But on the other hand, there are certainly real opportunities to work together on a broad range of issues."

Bush, he said, congratulated Sarkozy in a phone call Sunday after the president-elect said in a victory speech that the United States can "count on our friendship, " while adding that "friendship means accepting that friends can have different opinions."

Sarkozy challenged the Bush administration to take the lead on climate change and said the issue would be a priority for France.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack was upbeat about the prospects.

"We'll see in what ways his foreign policy will differ from President Chirac's, but I'm confident that we will find many areas in which we can work very closely together, " he said.

Chirac and Bush butted heads numerous times, notably over Iraq.