Sarkozy meets Obama, warns against weak response to terror

French President was in the US for talks focusing on the G20 and the G8.

Updated: Jan 11, 2011, 09:14 AM IST

Washington: President Nicolas Sarkozy Monday warned against showing weakness to "barbaric" terrorists, after two Frenchmen died in a failed French bid to free them from al Qaeda-linked militants in Africa.

The French President accepted condolences from US President Barack Obama in Oval Office talks over the deaths of the hostages, who were kidnapped in Niger and killed by their captors in Mali during a rescue attempt on Saturday.

Sarkozy, in Washington for talks focusing on the G20 and the G8 global economic groupings, which France is chairing this year, said the United States and France stood united against terrorism.

"I also want to thank President Obama for his expression of solidarity to the French people in light of the loss that we have felt at the cowardly killing of two young Frenchmen... in a barbaric fashion by terrorists."

Sarkozy said both the United States and France believed "that any show of weakness would be culpable, and we have no choice but to go after these terrorists wherever they may be."

Obama offered "condolences" to Sarkozy over the kidnappings of the two Frenchmen, Antoine de Leocour and Vincent Delory, who were abducted from a restaurant in Niger. Both were 25.

"It points to the challenge of terrorism that we jointly share, and this is just one more area in which cooperation between France and the United States is so critical," he said.

French authorities said Niger forces chased the kidnappers as far as border, then asked the French for aid when they crossed into Mali.

A Malian security source meanwhile said that proof of the involvement of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had been found at the site where French special forces backed by helicopters attacked the kidnappers.

Sarkozy arrived in Washington on Monday as Americans were digesting the shock of a shooting rampage in Arizona on Saturday, which wounded a US congresswoman, and killed six people including a nine-year-old girl.

He said the French people had been "deeply moved and upset" by the tragedy, which has sent shockwaves through US politics and sparked a debate about the brutal tone of much of the political discourse in the United States.

Obama said that America did not have a stronger friend and ally than Sarkozy and said their talks would address global economic reform, Iran`s nuclear challenge, Lebanon, Middle East peace talks and Sudan and Ivory Coast.

Sarkozy, who has said he wants to use France`s dual presidency of the G8 and G20 to reform currency markets and global governance, said France would work "hand in hand" with Washington on global economic issues.

The leaders also discussed commodity prices during their one-hour talk.

One of Sarkozy`s aides said the President attached "great importance to consulting his big partners" about his leadership this year of the G20 developed and developing nations and G8 group of six major Western powers plus Russia and Japan.

A French official, meanwhile, also said Sarkozy will meet Saudi Arabia`s recuperating King Abdullah and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in New York.

The talks with the Saudi monarch will encompass regional issues including Lebanon, Iran, the Middle East peace process and terrorism, as well as bilateral French-Saudi relations, a member of Sarkozy`s entourage said.

Sarkozy will meet separately with Hariri in "a continuation of the discussions he had with him last November 30 at the Elysee Palace over the situation in Lebanon and Lebanese-French relations," the official said.

Monday`s talks marked Sarkozy`s first meeting with Obama since the leaking of sensitive US diplomatic cables by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, which contained some embarrassing revelations for world leaders.

They revealed among other things that US diplomats, while lauding Sarkozy`s pro-American stance and his pragmatism, branded him erratic and touchy, with a complex private life.

Bureau Report