French president coming alone to White House

Updated: 2014-02-10 15:43


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The United States and France, an alliance that dates back to the very founding of America in the late 18th century, are working together on Iran, Syria, restive North Africa and other global hot spots.

The collaboration is a far cry from a decade ago when the US-led war on Iraq led to strains and French refusal to participate prompted some Americans to rename the classic fried-potato dish "freedom fries" instead of french fries.

"France is a solid ally of the United States but always retains its independence," Hollande told Time.

Obama has shied away from having frequent state visits during his five years in office but is said to have been the driving force behind inviting the French leader to Washington. Officials say Obama and Hollande have a solid working relationship.

The two leaders start the visit with a pilgrimage to Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, on Monday. Jefferson was US ambassador to France from 1785-1789, developing a taste for fine French wines.

The Monticello stop is intended to showcase the enduring alliance between the two countries. Jefferson, the third US president, was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. Without French assistance, the fledgling American army might not have defeated the British.

On Tuesday, after a colorful arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn, Obama and Hollande hold talks, then a joint news conference. Hollande will have lunch at the State Department with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

"During the visit, they will discuss opportunities to further strengthen our shared security, grow our economic and commercial partnership, and partner on the environment, climate change, and development," the White House said.

Both leaders could use the glow from a successful visit to boost their images at home. Hollande, struggling to reduce chronic unemployment in France, has a 24 percent job approval rating, according to Ipsos.

Obama, after the rocky rollout of his signature healthcare law, saw his approval rating drop to about 40 percent, but it has rebounded slightly in recent weeks.

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