France - US

Baby please don't go ... Obama, Hollande in White House love-in

Santé! US President Barack Obama (L) clinks glasses with French President François Hollande
Santé! US President Barack Obama (L) clinks glasses with French President François Hollande Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Singer Mary J Blige sang Jacques Brel's Ne me quitte pas (If you go away) in French to François Hollande at a special dinner with Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday,  the second day of his official visit to the US. A reference to 200 years of alliance between France and the US ... or to the French president's troubled private life? The pundits seem divided.

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After discussing issues including from Iran's nuclear programme, climate change, trade and combatting armed Islamists, the two leaders sat down with 300 guests to a state dinner that started with caviar, went on to quail eggs and winter vegetables, followed by steak, shallots and Swiss chard, a dessert of ice cream and chocolate and little extras including tricoleur biscuits and candy floss, all washed down with wines from Virginia and California.

Mary J. Blige performing "Ne me quitte pas" at the White House dinner
Mary J. Blige performing "Ne me quitte pas" at the White House dinner Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Addressing hundreds of French expatriates invited to the White House specially for the occasion, Hollande hailed the relationship between the two countries.

"We stand together with the United States to fight terrorism," he said. "We stand together to adress the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons. together to solve the crises in the Middle East. Together to support development in Africa. And together, always, to fight global warming and climate change."

He went on to tell "dear Barack", "You stand for what France has always admired in the United States; where everything is possible for those willing to fight for their rights, their values, their freedom and equal rights".

White House officials were obliged to ask excited French journalists to calm down, as they snapped selfies and relished the opportunity of visiting the most famous head of state's residence in the world, according to French television channel BFMTV.

French journalist's Oval Office selfie

During the first state visit by a French leader for nearly 20 years, Obama announced that he will visit France for the 65th anniversary of the World War II Normandy landings in June.

Hollande presented France's Légion d'honneur medal to six American soldiers who took part in the fighting.

Barack Obama with his wife Michelle greet François Hollande at the White House
Barack Obama with his wife Michelle greet François Hollande at the White House Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Hollande was to meet new technology leaders in California's Silicon Valley on Wednesday.

In an attempt to generate some positive coverage for French innovation, Hollande will meet with French expatriates to discuss France's position in a global digital innovation market.

France needs to realise the importance of digital companies and become more attractive for big companies, Benjamin Mestrallet, one of the few French entrepreneurs invited to meet Hollande told RFI.

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