Chicago-styled hot dogs may be no match for French cuisine.
Yet French President Francois Hollande once visited the U.S. in search of business intelligence about American fast food.
“If you noticed a French guy poking around your local McDonald’s, that was him,” President Barack Obama noted of his French counterpart, as the two appeared at a joint news conference ahead of a State Dinner at the White House tonight — a “dinner with a different kind of American cuisine.”
The pre-dinner talk, however, focused on far more serious fare: Iranian nuclear development, chemical weapons in Syria and international trade. The two presidents appeared at a joint news conference at the White House, a tradition with visiting leaders, in the noon-hour. They were also holding private meetings at the White House.
Obama announced at their joint appearance that he has accepted Hollande’s invitation to travel to France in June for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. And great cordiality was on display today in the East Room of the White House.
Obama’s election “was proof that America was moving forward,” Hollande said in his opening remarks. “We were prepared to resort to force” in Syria, Hollande noted, yet a diplomatic solution was found. Also in Iran, he said, “we found common ground.” The Iranian nuclear program has been suspended, he said — citing this as an outcome of “collaboration” between the U.S. and France. And “how not to mention climate change,” Hollande said through an interpreter. There is “a global goal,” he reminded his American host.
Obama was asked about the progress of chemical weapon destruction in Syria and about starving Syrians. What steps have the two leaders discussed “to try to help change that equation on the ground?”
“We still have a horrendous situation on the ground in Syria,” Obama said. The negotiations in Geneva recognize that there must be “a political solution,” he said. Both France and the U.S. continue to support a “moderate opposition,” he said, and both are stepping up humanitarian aid. “Nobody’s going to deny that there’s enormous frustration here,” the president said. Yet military action, he said, is an option that only can be used “wisely.”
“We will continue to keep the pressure on” Syria, Obama said. “Right now, we don’t think that there is a military solution, per se, to the problem.”
In the case of Iran, Obama said, the U.S. will enforce the ultimate goal of the sanctions aimed at averting development of nuclear weapons there.
“We will come down on them like a ton of bricks,” the American leader said, if Iran doesn’t refrain from development which the U.S. and allies view as a path to nuclear armament.
Asked about the gracious reception Hollande has received, Obama was asked by a reporter from Le Figaro if this means France has replaced Great Britain as best friend of the U.S.
“I have two daughters, and they are both gorgeous and wonderful,” Obama said, “and I would never choose between them.”
“And that’s how I feel about my wonderful European partners.”