UK slams Obama’s ‘France is America’s biggest ally’ comments

British political observers warn Obama`s comment can undermine US-UK ties.

Updated: Jan 12, 2011, 14:22 PM IST

Washington: British political observers have criticised US President Barack Obama’s recent statement that France is America’s biggest ally, warning that such a message can undermine American-British ties.

“We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people,” Obama said during a meeting with the French President in the White House.

Britain has reportedly lost nearly 350 troops in the war against the Taliban, seven times as many as France. Besides, over 10,000 British soldiers are serving in Helmand province, compared with just 3,850 Frenchmen.

Obama`s stance has been condemned in Westminster.

“I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like `best ally` so loosely. It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France. That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making,” the Daily Mail quoted Tory MP Patrick Mercer, as saying.

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the US President is difficult to fathom. And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.”

“To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous. Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq,” Gardiner added.

It also follows Gordon Brown’s trip to the UN in New York in 2009 when he had several requests for a meeting with Obama turned down.

Some analysts believe that Obama’s attitude stems from the time when his grandfather was jailed in Kenya in 1949. Hussein Onyango Obama was imprisoned for two years and allegedly tortured for information on the movement trying to gain independence from Britain.