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Emulous Sarkozy chides Obama for Copenhagen travel plans

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-28

As things warm up ahead of the UN climate change summit in December, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a dig at Barack Obama for planning to be in Copenhagen a full week before any other head of state.

The United States and China have made their national ambitions clear ahead of the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, prompting French President Nicolas Sarkozy to go into diplomatic overdrive to make sure France's – and in particular his own – voice is heard loud and clear.

Sarkozy, representing French Guiana at a meeting of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) in Manaus this week, was quick to offer his support for the optimism the US and Chinese statements represented.

"The latest declarations from Obama and the Chinese delegation are extremely encouraging," he said.

But Sarkozy did not hold back from making a dig at Obama for his decision to go to Copenhagen on Dec. 9, more than a week before the other heads of state, albeit en route to Oslo to pick up his recently awarded Nobel Peace Prize. The conference runs from Dec. 7 -18.

"I would hate to think that this could be seen as a discourteous action toward the Danish hosts and the other heads of state who have already said they will attend," Sarkozy said.

'Star power' and rivalry

The French president’s comment sheds light not only on his own desire to position himself as a global leader, especially on the issue of climate change, but also on the relationship between France and the USA.

Steven Ekovich, a political science professor at the American University of Paris, told FRANCE 24 that it is vital for Sarkozy to be seen, especially in France, as taking the lead on climate change, which was a core aspect of his election manifesto in 2007.

"Clearly there is competition," Ekovich said. "It is an attempt to tag on to the star power of Obama.

"But he is doing this for domestic concerns," Ekovich continued. "The citizens of Virginia do not vote for Mr Sarkozy. Obama dominates, and for someone with a strong ego [like Sarkozy], of course this is going to have an impact."

Deputy editor of French daily Le Figaro, Pierre Rousselin agreed.

"Obama’s popularity is very high," he said. "This is something that maybe aggravates Sarkozy, who is very mindful of his own popularity and who thinks that public opinion is too kind to Obama."

Date created : 2009-11-27

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