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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 August 2007, 22:10 GMT 23:10 UK
Bush-Sarkozy lunch 'not summit'
President George W Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy ride aboard Fidelity III driven by former President George H W Bush, 11 August 2007
Sarkozy is the second world leader invited to Maine by President Bush
US President George W Bush welcomed his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, to his family home in Maine on Saturday for an informal lunch and boat ride.

Officials stressed the meeting was not a summit but instead a chance for the two men to get to know each other over hot dogs and hamburgers.

France's former President Jacques Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war saw Franco-US relations fall to a new low.

But Mr Sarkozy has made it clear that he will adopt a more pro-US stance.

Mr Bush praised Mr Sarkozy as he waited with his wife and parents on the lawn of the family home in Kennebunkport, on the Atlantic seaside.

"The good thing about President Sarkozy is you know where he stands," Mr Bush told reporters.

Laura Bush, George W Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy 11/08/2007

Before the lunch, Mr Sarkozy, who is on holiday in America, said he admired the US as "a great democracy, a country of freedom".

He called the US a "close friend", comparing France's relations with it to a family which sometimes had disagreements.

"Do we agree on everything? No.

"Even within the family there are disagreements but we are still of the same family and we may be friends and not agree on everything but we are friends nevertheless. That's the truth."

Despite protestations that the meeting was just a casual lunch, some observers remarked that it was impossible to imagine Mr Bush issuing a similar invitation to Mr Chirac.

In addition to the Iraq war, disagreements over trade and climate change further strained the relationship between Mr Bush and Mr Chirac.

In contrast, Mr Sarkozy made it clear from the outset of his presidency that America could count on his friendship.

US officials have pointed out that the countries are already working closely on issues such as Iran, Lebanon and Sudan.

Hot dogs and hamburgers

The lunch included hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, and fresh blueberry pie.

No mention was made of whether french fries were on the menu. Some Americans started calling chipped potatoes "freedom fries" after Mr Chirac opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The French president's wife, Cecilia Sarkozy, was meant to be at the lunch but phoned First Lady Laura Bush to say she and her children were feeling unwell and would not attend.

After lunch, President Bush and his father, former President George Bush, took Mr Sarkozy for a 30-minute boat ride.

The Sarkozys have been on holiday in nearby New Hampshire, although Mr Sarkozy briefly returned to France for the funeral on Friday of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

Mr Sarkozy's decision to take a holiday in the US has led to some negative comments at home, especially from critics who believe he would like to see the French economy overhauled to follow the American free market model.

Only one other foreign leader has been invited by President Bush to his family's home in Maine. Russian President Vladimir Putin went there in July for an informal meeting that was dubbed the "lobster summit".




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