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French Ties and French Fries

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Just over a year ago, France spearheaded a UN revolt against US plans for an invasion of Iraq, plunging the two allies into an unusually antagonistic relationship. In recent days, by contrast, Paris and Washington have worked together to resolve their differences over a UN resolution on the transfer of authority to a new Iraqi government.

That's notable progress, even though at their summit in Paris over the weekend, Presidents Bush and Chirac expressed in body and verbal language the differences that still separate them.

Mr. Chirac, for instance, flatly rejected Mr. Bush's comparisons between World War II and the Iraq war. And he repeated Monday that France would not send troops to Iraq nor support Bush's call for canceling up to 95 percent of Iraqi debt.

But the two men have also made a commendable effort at reconciliation. At the D-Day ceremonies, the American president said the US would be ready to make the same sacrifices for its friends again, and the French president called America an "eternal ally."

Coming from heads of state, talk like that has meaning. It underscores the shared values of liberty and democracy that go back to the French and American revolutions. It provides the foundation on which this relationship can begin to mend.

Of course, other factors can help push the partners closer together, including the danger of failed democracy in Iraq and the prospect that Chirac might have to work with Bush for another four years.

Chirac and Bush have an opportunity to further their relationship - and encourage others in their governments to do the same. Amazingly, the US House still sells "freedom fries" (as opposed to French fries) in its cafeterias. C'est dommage.


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