Le Nouvel Observateur
Friday 20 October 2006
During a visit to the United States, the Defense Minister emphasizes that Franco-American friendship requires "respect" and "sincerity."
Following the meeting of close to an hour with Donald Rumsfeld, Michèle Alliot-Marie declared that France would ponder the maintenance of its special forces in Afghanistan. "Decisions will be taken later," she explained, adding that the beefing-up of NATO's role on the ground allowed a new analysis of the French presence.
"The Pact of Friendship"
Earlier, the Defense Minister had attended the commemoration of the Battle of Yorktown, an event of the War of Independence during which French and American forces conquered the British troops on the same day 225 years ago.
After witnessing the parade of soldiers drawn from every corps of the American army, the French minister evoked "the pact of friendship sealed at Yorktown," which continues to connect the two countries, but she also deemed that to be friends, "is first of all, to respect one another."
"Friends speak together with complete freedom and frankness and listen to one another in trust. Neither seeks to dominate, neither acts like a vassal," asserted Michèle Alliot-Marie during the ceremony, before laying a spray of flowers at the foot of a monument celebrating the last battle of the American War of Independence. She added that, "friendship creates a duty of sincerity (...) in all independence, without excessive reverence, without beatific subservience."
"We each have our identities, our aspirations, our national interests to defend. They are sometimes contradictory," pleaded Michèle Alliot-Marie, before reminding that, "France is not and will never be a feeble friend to America."
"Passionately, and Definitively Independent"
These statements came at a time when relations between Paris and Washington have been impacted by France's opposition to the war in Iraq conducted by the United States in 2003.
Thus did the Defense Minister emphasize that France is, "passionately, but definitively independent."
After her speech, Michèle Alliot-Marie made Senator John Warner, Republican Chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, a Commandant of the Legion of Honor.
After her interview with Donald Rumsfeld, she was supposed to go to New York to meet United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Friday, and to give a speech before the Franco-American Foundation, "Challenges of the Twenty-first Century - Conflicts of Interest or Clash of Civilizations."
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.