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Obama ready for low-key Paris visit

Latest update : 2008-07-25

Following his landmark speech in Berlin, US presidential hopeful Barack Obama will visit Paris on Friday for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, before heading for London on the last leg of his Europe tour.

Watch our Top Story: 'Obama in Europe - a shared destiny?'



US presidential hopeful Barack Obama was due in Paris on Friday to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy during a fleeting and low-key visit in stark contrast to his crowd-pulling trip to Berlin the day before.

Obama's aides did not detail his agenda, but the Illinois senator was expected to land at Le Bourget airport and head into Paris solely for the Sarkozy meeting before leaving for London soon afterwards.

"Senator Obama looks forward to meeting with President Sarkozy and discussing areas of mutual interest, including the common challenges of security, transnational threats, and the global economy," his national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said.

"President Sarkozy has made the bilateral Franco-American relationship and the Transatlantic Alliance a centerpiece of his presidency, and Senator Obama looks forward to discussing how to build on these important initiatives."

Public opinion polls in France mirror those elsewhere in Europe to show Obama is by far the candidate most people would like to see succeed President George W. Bush in the November elections.

The election of the rightwing pro-US Sarkozy last year greatly improved US-French relations, which were poisoned by France's staunch opposition to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq under then president Jacques Chirac.

Obama said in Berlin -- where he gave a speech to an estimated 200,000 people -- that he aimed to give a fresh start to transatlantic ties.

But there are few votes for any US presidential candidate in being seen to be close to France. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, was pilloried by conservatives just because he could speak French.

France will be the only nation of Obama's three-state European tour -- aimed at burnishing his foreign policy credentials -- where he does not spend a night.

But the presumptive Democratic candidate said Sunday it was important for him to get to know the French leader to lay the groundwork for what could be a fruitful relationship if he wins the presidency.   

"The objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like (Afghan) President Karzai or (Iraqi) Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others, who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years," he told CBS television.

Obama, who was due to make no public appearances here apart from a brief press conference after meeting Sarkozy, said in January he was impressed by the president's energy and talent and his ability to look at France's problems with a fresh eye.

"He is not tied hand and feet by weighty traditions or dogma. He is an example for many leaders," he told Paris Match magazine.

Europeans strongly support Obama's foreign policy goals including closing the Guantanamo Bay lock-up for terror suspects, fighting nuclear proliferation and facing up to climate change with an EU-style emissions cap-and-trade plan.

But, as France's Le Monde newspaper warned Thursday, "Europeans can fear appeals for aid from Mr. Obama," particularly a stronger military commitment in Afghanistan, where Obama started his tour on Saturday that also took him to Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

Sarkozy met in March with the Republican presisential contender John McCain, who used his trip to France to stress that the United States must listen more to its European allies.

Date created : 2008-07-25