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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
France and US patch up quarrel
Bush and Chirac after talks
The leaders say they talked positively
The estranged presidents of France and the US have ended their first post-Iraq war talks, insisting that there was a positive and constructive atmosphere.

The encounter, on the fringes of the G8 summit in Evian, was being closely watched for signs that their bitter split over the war might be ending.

The Americans were furious at French tactics on the United Nations Security Council, where France effectively blocked a second Iraq resolution by announcing in advance that it would be vetoed.

We can have disagreements but that doesn't mean we have to be disagreeable to each other
George W Bush
US President
But as Jacques Chirac and George W Bush met on Monday, both men stressed the friendly nature of the encounter.

"I know there are a lot of people in both our countries wondering whether or not we can actually sit down and have a comfortable conversation," Mr Bush told reporters. "And the answer is 'absolutely'.

What summit pictures reveal about post-war relationships

"We can have disagreements but that doesn't mean we have to be disagreeable to each other."

Mr Chirac, standing beside him, nodded in agreement, but did not comment directly on the split.

"We had a very positive meeting this morning that underscored our common belief in the capacity of tomorrow's world to achieve higher growth," he said.

The two men later placed hands on each other's backs and joked with reporters.

The meeting followed a slightly awkward-looking encounter on Sunday, when Mr Bush arrived for the summit.

Mr Chirac attempted to place a friendly hand on Mr Bush's shoulder as the US leader walked in front of him, and there were several failed attempts at eye contact before the two men finally smiled at each other.

We have not changed our point of view. Neither has the United States
Catherine Colonna
President Chirac's spokeswoman
The fact that Mr Bush arrived late for the summit and is planning to leave early is being seen by some correspondents as a sign of continuing US anger at France.

The first hints at reconciliation at the summit came when Mr Bush on Sunday reportedly gave Mr Chirac three books about Native American civilisation, art, and culture. Mr Chirac's office was quoted as saying he "appreciated this gesture of friendship".

Mr Chirac's talks with Mr Bush were expected to focus on summit-related issues, including world trade talks, aid for Africa and reviving the world economy.

Mr Bush, for his part, was expected to put pressure his French counterpart to agree to the lowering of EU farm subsidies.

Bush and Chirac at summit
Chirac attempted a friendly hand-on-shoulder gesture on Sunday
Ahead of the talks, Mr Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, confirmed that France still held its original opinion about Iraq.

"We have not changed our point of view. Neither has the United States," Ms Colonna said - a point also emphasised by Mr Chirac himself last week.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says relations between France and the US remain prickly.

For example, he says, a US proposal to intercept ships and planes suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction was evidently not discussed with the French beforehand.

Nobody talked about the past. Everybody was concentrating on creating a mood of solidarity
Jean Chretien
Canadian Prime Minister
France has since raised questions about the legal basis of such action and who would carry it out.

The US backlash against France over the war included consumer boycotts, verbal insults, and the symbolic renaming of French fries as "freedom fries".

France - with its partners in the anti-war bloc, Germany and Russia - has since sought to rebuild bridges with the US.

The Evian meeting provided the first real test of progress.

At the summit, Mr Chirac made an early attempt to pour oil on the troubled waters.

At a news conference on Sunday, he hailed Mr Bush's success in getting a $15 billion Aids package for the developing world approved by Congress.

"Bush took a decision in this area that I would not hesitate to call historic," Mr Chirac said.

Issues at summit
Global economy
Weapons of mass destruction
Middle East peace process
Iraq reconstruction
North Korea
Helping developing countries
Other leaders at the summit stressed that talks so far had not been overshadowed by the war anger.

"Everybody talked positively," said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. "Nobody talked about the past. Everybody was concentrating on creating a mood of solidarity."

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin reported that the atmospere improved as the summit proceeded. "At the end of the day, the atmosphere was quite good," he said.

Mr Bush has already met Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a second veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council which did not go as far as France in threatening to block resolutions on Iraq.

Mr Bush made clear that the relationship with Russia was improving.

"We will show the world that friends can disagree, move beyond disagreement and work in a very constructive and important way to maintain the peace," Mr Bush said.

Mr Bush, however, has not yet held face-to-face talks with German leader Gerhard Schroeder and is not planning any at the summit.




SEE ALSO:
G8 leaders set for trade debate
02 Jun 03  |  Europe
In pictures: G8 clashes
01 Jun 03  |  Photo Gallery
France rings G8 town with steel
29 May 03  |  Europe


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