The French ambassador to the United States brought a message of reconciliation to the University of Delaware on Wednesday.
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte told a class of about 40 students that strong allies such as the United States and France can disagree and remain friends, "like a family."
"We have a difference over the war in Iraq," he said. But the two countries remain committed to common goals of democracy, and their troops are standing "shoulder to shoulder" in many places around the world, including Afghanistan, Kosovo and Haiti.
Levitte said France is willing to put aside the disagreement and work with the United States to rebuild Iraq and stabilize the region. "And to be a bridge between the Muslim world and the West," he said.
Levitte said there was no bitterness in the French government about Iraq or even the move by some congressmen to rename French fries, "freedom fries."
French fries come from a Belgian recipe anyway, joked Levitte.
The ambassador was set to deliver the same message in a speech Wednesday evening as part of UD's Global Agenda lecture series.
Students in journalism professor Ralph Begleiter's class said they found Levitte's comments compelling. Tom Isherwood, 19, said the message that allies can occasionally disagree sounded more reasonable than President Bush's "with us or against us" posture.
Reina Toeda, 20, said she better understands why France opposed the Iraq conflict. Not to oppose the United Sates, she said, "They just wanted to avoid war."
Begleiter, a former CNN correspondent, is also the organizer of the Global Agenda lecture series that is co-sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Wilmington.
Students in the class quizzed Levitte on the future of the European Union, NATO and whether public animosity towards President Bush in Europe is as strong as it appears in the media.
"Yes, it is," said Levitte, adding opinion polls across Europe have been 80 to 90 percent against the Iraq war and against President Bush.
However, Levitte said that does not mean the French or Europe are against the United States or Americans. And French-American relations are now much improved, he said, "Thank God."
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