Hollande meets Obama on US state visit
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 09:27
  
Monticello: French President Francois Hollande began a state visit to the United States, flying with President Barack Obama to pay homage at the home of francophile US founding father Thomas Jefferson.

The visit, designed to underscore historic ties and a burgeoning security relationship between America and its oldest ally, takes place as Hollande tries to shrug off embarrassment over his love life.

Obama met Hollande at the steps of a Boeing-757 version of his Air Force One jet at Andrews Air Force base Monday, for a short flight into Virginia to visit Jefferson's beloved mansion at Monticello.

The visit was planned as a chance for Obama and Hollande, who speaks good English, to forge a personal relationship in highly symbolic surroundings.

The US leader said Jefferson was a "francophile through and through.

"This home represents the bonds that helped lead to the American revolution, helped to influence the French Revolution," Obama said.

Hollande stretched the historical allusion to include the Marquis de Lafayette, the French nobleman who fought for America's independence in George Washington's revolutionary army.

"Allies we were at the time of Jefferson and Lafayette, allies we are today," he said.

The serious business will begin on today, with Oval Office talks likely to focus on the war in Syria, Iran's nuclear program, Ukraine's political crisis and security concerns in Africa.

Washington and Paris share a tough stance against Tehran and Damascus, and US forces provide intelligence and logistics support to the French operations in Mali and Central African Republic.

Hollande hopes to leave his split from long-time girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler behind, but her absence will be noted when he goes solo to tomorrow's state dinner in a plush marquee on the White House south lawn.

His trip is the first full state visit by a French leader since 1996 and is expected to highlight the "excellent working relationship" between the United States and France, according to sources at the Elysee.

But the pair will also discuss issues that have bedevilled relations, including concerns over mass US spying in France, and economic ties will also be on the agenda.

The leaders will hold a joint press conference at the White House.

Jefferson, the third US president, served from 1801 to 1809 and was both one of the founding fathers of the United States and one of the country's first diplomats in Paris.

AFP

First Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 09:27


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