Page last updated at 00:21 GMT, Sunday, 15 June 2008 01:21 UK

Bush compliments Sarkozy on wife

Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni, 27 March 2008
Mr Bush described Carla Bruni as a "smart and capable woman"

US President George Bush has complimented his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on his choice of wife, on the latest leg of his European tour.

Mr Bush heaped praise on French first lady Carla Bruni, describing her as "a really smart, capable woman".

"I can see why you married her," he told the French president in Paris.

French-US policy differences over Iraq took a back seat as the men exchanged banter on what is seen as Mr Bush's farewell European tour.

Referring to Mr Sarkozy by his first name, Mr Bush recalled that "America's first friend was France", helping win independence from Britain.

'Full of energy'

The US president went on to compliment the man referred to in some French media as "Sarkozy l'Americain" (Sarkozy the American).

U.S. President George W. Bush, right, is welcomed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris
Mr Bush consistently referred to Mr Sarkozy by his first name

"He's an interesting guy," said Mr Bush.

"He is full of energy. He's full of wisdom. He tells me what's on his mind. And every time I've met with him we've had very meaningful discussions."

Mr Sarkozy, for his part, said warm relations between the countries had endured for more than 200 years.

Since taking office a year ago, the French president has made great efforts to build relations with Washington, which went into deep freeze under his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

During a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace, the two men emphasised the strength of relations between their two countries.

While they discussed a range of issues including Iran's nuclear ambitions and co-operation over Afghanistan, correspondents say the mood of the meeting was dominated by the extent to which France and the US see eye to eye.

The visit is seen as a sign of further reconciliation between the US and France, after tensions over Iraq.

Mr Bush will travel to the UK on Sunday, where he is expected to meet Queen Elizabeth II and hold talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The US president had arrived in Paris from Rome, where he had been afforded a special audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

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