Royal Accuses Rival of Apology to Bush on Iraq; Sarkozy Denies It

Royal Accuses Rival of Apology to Bush on Iraq; Sarkozy Denies It

New York Times
April 27, 2007

PARIS, April 26 — Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate in the
French presidential election on May 6, accused Nicolas Sarkozy, her
conservative opponent, on Wednesday of having "apologized" to
President Bush for France's decision not to back the United States
militarily in Iraq.

Mr. Sarkozy's campaign team called her words "lies."

"I am not for a Europe that aligns with the U.S.," Ms. Royal said on
France 2 television. "I have never been, and will never, go apologize
to President Bush for the position of France on the issue of refusing
to send our troops to Iraq."

The interviewer noted that Mr. Sarkozy's official position was that he
had supported President Jacques Chirac's opposition to the war and to
French participation in military operations in Iraq.

"Yes, well, listen," Ms. Royal responded. "He still did this."

Mr. Sarkozy's team issued a strongly worded statement on Thursday
morning, repeating his position that the war in Iraq was a mistake and
that he backed Mr. Chirac's decision to refuse to send French troops.

The statement called for Ms. Royal to "stop using lies and personal
attacks to preserve the dignity and qualities of the presidential

Ms. Royal repeated her criticism on Thursday evening, telling TF1
television, "He may have changed his posture, but I think all the
French were shocked by his move when he visited George Bush,
denouncing French arrogance and apologizing for the French position."

While in the United States in September, Mr. Sarkozy, then the
interior minister, sought to distance himself from what he considered
France's clumsy method of diplomacy, but he repeated his opposition to
the war. He met with President Bush at the White House and they posed
for a photo, which prompted much commentary in the French news media.

"We know that a meeting was negotiated," Arnaud Montebourg, a
spokesman for Ms. Royal, said in an interview. "This showed that in
exchange, he had made verbal concessions showing he separated himself
from French diplomacy."

Asked if the Socialist Party had any evidence that Mr. Sarkozy had
"apologized" for not sending troops to Iraq, he replied: "These are
facts. How do you want Mr. Bush to shake the hand of a leader without
some sort of opening on his part?"

The battle between Mr. Sarkozy, who received 31 percent of the vote on
Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, and Ms. Royal,
who got 26 percent, is intensifying.

Mr. Sarkozy's opponents have often emphasized his perceived affinity
for the United States. In January, a Socialist Party pamphlet called
him an "American neoconservative with a French passport."