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French Official Urges Better Relationship with US

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French official urges better relationship with U.S.

The Associated Press

PARIS (May 7, 2003 7:47 p.m. EDT) - The French defense minister is urging her countrymen to send "some messages" to prevent relations with the United States from deteriorating.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, Michele Alliot-Marie said that she was concerned about Americans turning against France because of its opposition to the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein.

"What is worrying are the reactions of an American public opinion heated to white hot by political and media campaigns that undermine trans-Atlantic relations," Alliot-Marie said.

"It will be important for us to send some messages in the upcoming months because, if not, this phenomenon could be deep and long-lasting," she said.

The interview was to be published in Thursday's editions. The Associated Press received an advance copy late Wednesday.

France opposed the U.S.-led push for war against Iraq, and threatened to use its veto in the U.N. Security Council to block military action - a threat that infuriated Washington.

Officials from both nations have acknowledged the strains. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that France would face consequences for opposing the war.

In the interview, Alliot-Marie insisted France and the United States didn't disagree on the core of the Iraq question, but on the timetables and methods.

She also expressed optimism for a thaw in U.S.-French ties, saying politicians are pragmatic.

"They know that the important thing is the deep and durable bonds of friendship between our two countries," the minister said.

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