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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
Washington relief at Sarkozy win
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

Mr Sarkozy meets US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September 2006
Mr Sarkozy was invited to the White House last year
Privately, White House officials had been praying for a Sarkozy victory for months.

Publicly, they have not been this pleased and relieved by a European election result in years.

President George W Bush has already phoned to say well done and both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have welcomed his victory.

But in France, Nicolas Sarkozy has been described as "Sarko the American" by his opponents.

In the US, the insult becomes a badge of honour, which the new French president has earned with his unabashed admiration of American values.

US visit

He hammered home the point during a four-day book tour last September, which coincided with the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

He spoke to firefighters in Manhattan and business leaders on Wall Street, showering admiration and respect on both, holding up the United States as an example, not an ogre.

In Washington, he was invited to the White House to meet President Bush - a very rare honour for a mere minister and an honour which has evaded President Jacques Chirac ever since he led the international opposition to the Iraq war.

The Sarkozy-Bush mood music could not be more positive, but there are a few discordant notes.

Nicolas Sarkozy opposed the Iraq war as much as President Chirac's handling of the diplomacy. He wants America to announce a phased withdrawal. He also opposes Turkish membership of the EU, which Washington favours.

Nevertheless, with Nicolas Sarkozy now in Paris, Angela Merkel in Berlin and soon, one assumes, Gordon Brown in London, the US feels that it has regained an axis of friendship in northern Europe.

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