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Hollande promises Americans to be 'friends forever' on US state visit

François Hollande andBarack Obama at Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello
François Hollande andBarack Obama at Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello Reuters/Larry Downing

French President François Hollande promised Americans that the two nations will be "friends forever" as he started the first state visit of a French leader to the United States for 18 years. He was scheduled to spend most of Tuesday with US President Barack Obama with both leaders expected to give a joint press conference before an official dinner at the White House.

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After visiting Monticello, the estate of the US's third president Thomas Jefferson - a francophile who had seen the French revolution with his own eyes - Hollande waxed lyrical about the golden age of Franco-American cooperation.

"Allies we were at the time of Jefferson and [French General] de La Fayette, allies we still are today. Friends we at the time of Jefferson and de La Fayette, friends we always will be," he rhapsodised.

Ahead of the visit, the two heads of state published a co-authored article in the Washington Post newspaper and in French paper Le Monde.

In it they say the two countries have built a partnership that goes beyond the icy relations of 10 years ago, when France refused to follow the US to war in Iraq and cite common ground when it comes to Iran's nuclear programme and promoting growth in the technology sector.

The partnership is most evident in Africa, fighting Al Qaeda in the Sahel region and working to stem violence in the Central African Republic, the article says in a gesture of support by Obama to France's main foreign policy concern.

The visit and the article show the US now sees France as an important partner, Dominique Moisi, senior researcher with the French Institute of Foreign Relations, told RFI.

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