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Bush and Sarkozy set for 'casual lunch' in Maine

President George W. Bush will treat French President Nicolas Sarkozy to a casual lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs at his family home in Maine on Saturday, signaling warmer U.S. ties with France after strains over the Iraq war.

Bush and Sarkozy set for 'casual lunch' in Maine
It was a rare invitation. Only one other foreign leader has been invited by Bush to his family's seaside compound along the northeastern state's rocky coast -- Russian President Vladimir Putin in July to try and soothe escalating tensions over U.S. missile defense plans in Europe.

The lunch for Sarkozy will be "traditional American picnic fare" that included hot dogs and hamburgers, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Described by the White House as a casual, social, event, the lunch will also give Sarkozy an opportunity to meet the Bush family. Bush's parents, twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, brother Jeb and sister Doro were expected to attend.

Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia, called first lady Laura Bush on Saturday morning and said she and her children weren't feeling well and would not attend the lunch, Perino said.

The United States hopes for improved ties with France under Sarkozy after relations chilled with his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who voiced opposition to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Bush usually invites foreign allies to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to show a special relationship. The last head of state to visit the ranch was Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in August 2005.

'WORKING CLOSELY'

Perino said "geography" played a role in the Kennebunkport venue for the two leader meetings this summer -- Sarkozy has been on vacation in nearby New Hampshire and Putin was heading to Latin America.
Sarkozy, who took office in May, was criticized in France for choosing the United States for his first vacation as president. He briefly interrupted his American holiday to fly back to France to attend the funeral of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger on Friday, but returned to visit Bush in Maine.

Bush started a working vacation in this resort town to attend the wedding of a family friend. He has gone biking, and out on a boat with his father, former President George Bush, and brother Jeb, to do some fishing.

The Bush invitation to Sarkozy was extended during the Group of Eight meeting in Germany in June.

"It's a casual lunch," Perino said. "As when any world leader gets together with another, there's a possibility that they could discuss business," she said.

"Obviously we're working very closely with France right now on a range of issues," Perino said, noting efforts at the U.N. Security Council on Lebanon, Sudan and Iran.

A U.S. climate change summit in September may also come up in conversation during the lunch, expected to last about 90 minutes, Perino said.

A Portland Press Herald newspaper editorial on Friday exclaimed: "Bienvenue, President Nicolas Sarkozy!" and said the French leader should consider vacationing in Maine instead of New Hampshire.

The editorial ended: "After all, a number of us speak French, and this is Vacationland. See you next summer?"

Reuters
Last Mod: 11 Ağustos 2007, 19:35
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