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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK
Bush stresses European bonds
Bush (l) and Chirac at a news conference
It is Mr Bush's first official visit to France
President George W Bush has sought to play down any suggestion of a rift in relations between the US and Europe at the start of his visit to France.

After talks in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac, Mr Bush told reporters that both France and America would continue to fight people who hated freedom.

There's a lot more that unites us than divides us

George W. Bush

He praised France as a "decisive ally" and called Mr Chirac a good friend - both to him personally and to the US.

However some differences were highlighted as the French leader brought up the subject of trade disputes over US steel tariffs and farm subsidies, saying real answers were needed.

Several thousand demonstrators turned out in Paris to protest after Mr Bush arrived on his two-day visit.

The US president flew into the French capital at the end of a visit to Russia which culminated in the signing of an agreement to cut nuclear warheads by two-thirds.

Need for consultation

At a news conference at the Elysee Palace, the French and US presidents tried to emphasise their points of agreement and the strength of their personal relationship, joking with one another as they took questions from the floor.

"There's a heck of a lot more that unites us than divides us ... I feel very comfortable coming to France", Mr Bush said.

But Mr Chirac, raising the issues of US tariffs on steel imports and new subsidies for American farmers which have been strongly criticised in Europe, said:

US war graves in Normandy
The Normandy visit will emphasise American sacrifices
"These are very real issues and real answers have to be given to these problems, after intense consultation and dialogue."

The BBC's Nick Bryant - who is travelling with Mr Bush - says this is a troubled relationship right now, with differences over Middle East policy, the expansion of the war on terrorism to Iraq and many other issues.

The Bush administration is worried about the mood of anti-Americanism in Europe, and the constant carping - as they see it - of countries like France, our correspondent says.

Past sacrifices

Mr Bush is due to have further talks with Mr Chirac in Paris before travelling on to Normandy on Monday to honour American troops who died in World War II.

Further protests are expected and a huge security operation has been mounted.

Anti-Bush protester
Further anti-US protests are expected in France
The French leg of Mr Bush's trip has been choreographed to remind European allies of the sacrifices made by Americans during the war.

Mr Bush will visit the first French village to be liberated by US forces and walk through a cemetery overlooking a D-Day landing site where almost 10,000 Americans are buried.

On the next stage of his tour, the US president will go to Rome where he is due to attend a Nato summit at an airbase on Tuesday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel reports from Paris
"Europe is deeply uneasy over some American policies"
President George W Bush
"I want to thank the French people for their strong support"
President Jacques Chirac
"Terrorism can hit anywhere, at any time"
See also:

24 May 02 | TV and Radio reports
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