News



U.S.-FRENCH RIVALRY:  THE 'SOLANA TOAST' SKIRMISH AND OTHER





(Foreign Media Reaction Daily Digest)



TIFFS



Despite news reports that officials on both sides of the

Atlantic are trying to patch up U.S.-French ties, sorely

tried by a series of quarrels over issues ranging from NATO

to the choice of a new UN secretary general, a number of

French commentators remained resentful of what one called

"U.S. bulldozer diplomacy."  Most observers in France and

elsewhere were aghast at the level to which the antagonism

rose last week, when back-and-forth charges erupted over

whether French Foreign Minister de Charette deliberately

snubbed the U.S. secretary of state by walking out shortly

before NATO Secretary General Solana's toast in honor of

Mr. Christopher's retirement.  London's liberal Guardian

concluded: "The incident seemed to reflect the gloomy state

of Franco-American relations."  Centrist Stuttgarter

Zeitung--somewhat tongue-in-cheek--added, "We are warning

our friends against waging an open war....  Maybe a duel

between Jacques Chirac and Bill Clinton at dawn  would be

the only way out."  But French editorialists failed to find

even a hint of humor in the developments.  RTL radio

maintained, "This is a U.S. campaign against the  French

because it disapproves of France's recent diplomatic steps

in the  Middle East, in Africa, at the UN and about NATO." 

Regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d' Alsace's

grandiloquently asserted, "Why is there this tension?... 

Not because of a  little snub...but because Europe is

reaffirming itself and its voice is  France."



Les Dernieres put its finger on what many in the media were

saying:  That at the core of U.S.-French antagonism lies

what Paris portrays as its principled attempts to curb

"U.S. hegemony," and what other European critics view as a

more selfish French goal.  Denmark's center-right Jyllands-

Posten, for instance, suggested: "It would be a shame, if

Western unity was destroyed by France's unrealistic

attempts to act like a superpower in competition with the

U.S."  Since France's leap into the Middle East peace

process earlier this year and Secretary Christopher's trip

to Africa, pundits have played up the rivalry as both

countries tread into each other's "spheres."  Last week,

however, in addition to the row over the Solana toast,

France suffered a defeat at the UN with the election of the

U.S.-backed candidate, and saw its bid to place a European

as head of NATO's southern command stymied by the U.S.

refusal to hand over the Naples post.  These losses sparked

a lot of hand-wringing among Parisian writers.  Left-of-

center Liberation judged, "It is difficult  and risky for

an average-sized nation to act as if it were a 

superpower....   Chirac has lost on all fronts."  Right-of-

center Les Echos lamented that the UN decision was "clearly

a setback for French diplomacy....   Many African 

countries will now draw certain conclusions: France has

lost some of its  importance in Africa."  Others, however,

remained defiant.  Right-of-center Le Figaro hinted that

France's demands for more European control in NATO--if not

satisfied--will paralyze progress on other fronts,

including the cherished project of Alliance enlargement. 

Nevertheless, there were voices urging compromise and

cooperation.  Right-of-center France Soir held, "The time

has come  for Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac to put an end

to the guerrilla war of  the chanceries."  France and the

U.S., Catholic La Croix pointed out, "are an old couple

which has been fighting for 49 years....  But...in crucial

moments, France has never failed the U.S."

This survey is based on 35 reports from 8 countries, Dec.

12-19.

EDITOR:  Mildred Sola Neely 



                                 EUROPE 

                                    

FRANCE:    "The War Of The Solana Toast"



Michel Leclercq noted in an AFP dispatch (12/19): "In the

last few  months, Franco-American conflicts in matters of

diplomacy, the economy and  cultural issues have abounded:

Iraq, the Middle East, Zaire and the Great  Lakes area, the

UN election, the Helms-Burton Act.... But it is over NATO 

that the two nations are battling, with the risk of

blocking the  renovation process of the Atlantic

Alliance....  Dominique Moisi of the  French Institute for

International Relations comments: 'These tensions  can be

explained by the new international context which prevails

since  the fall of the Communist bloc: There is no longer a

common enemy to  force us to work together.' As the only

superpower, the United States has difficulty  in accepting

the fact that its supremacy might be questioned." 



"U.S. Campaign Against The French"



Michele Cotta held on RTL radio (12/19): "Paul Quiles has

preferred to believe  the U.S. version without checking the

facts.  For the Socialist Party it  seems that its

confidence lies with the most powerful.  We can believe de 

Charette (when he gives his version.) This is a U.S.

campaign against the  French because it disapproves of

France's recent diplomatic steps in the  Middle East, in

Africa, at the UN and about NATO....  Madeleine Albright, 

the Iron Lady, who is well known for her allergy to France,

will be  heading  U.S. foreign policy. De Charette has

kindly wished her luck. I  think he is very generous

because he is the one who will probably be  needing a

bulletproof vest."



"Final Agreement Or Nothing"



Baudoin Bollaert said in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/18):

"Everyone seems to  agree on one point: The final agreement

(on NATO) will be global or there  will be no agreement at

all.  In other words, it appears that the internal 

renovation of the Alliance, with the emergence of a

`European pillar,'  cannot be separated from its

enlargement to the East."  



"France And U.S. At Odds"



Jean-Claude Kiefer remarked in regional Les Dernieres

Nouvelles d' Alsace (12/17):  "Why is there this tension

between Paris and Washington? Not because of a  little

snub...but because Europe is reaffirming itself and its

voice is  France. Why is there misunderstanding?  Because

of Europe's emancipation?  The Euro will upset the

dollar...the EU will have a joint European  foreign policy.

In the end, it will have its `European pillar' within 

NATO, because Europe wants to get rid of the label

`political dwarf'." 



"Franco-American Differences"



Francois de Rose, French ambassador to Washington, said in

right-of-center Le  Figaro (12/17): "The question of the

Southern command is only one aspect  of a larger question,

which France rightly asks: that of Europe's  position in an

Alliance concerned today with its enlargement, its 

relations with Russia, the emergence of a European pillar,

the question  of Central and Eastern Europe's stability,

the dangers of nuclear  proliferation....  It is

unfortunate that the tense relations between Paris  and

Washington might compromise the solution to questions which

are  urgent and certainly more important for the future of

Europe." 



"Bulldozer Diplomacy" 



Jacques Malmassari concluded in right-of-center France Soir

(12/17): "The time has come  for Bill Clinton and Jacques

Chirac to put an end to the guerrilla war of  the

chanceries....  It's not 





necessary to be an expert to see that  Paris-Washington

relations become tense every time French diplomacy turns 

somewhat aggressive....  For example, the Middle East,

Africa, the UN....  The  U.S. bulldozer diplomacy (over

these issues) can possibly be positive in  the short term,

but Bill Clinton should realize that it often breaks

alliances and always ruins friendships." 



"France-U.S.: False Quarrel"



Under the headline above, right-of-center Les Echos

remarked in its editorial (12/17): "The NATO defense

ministers' meeting today should resolve certain issues, but

will face a  major stumbling bloc on NATO's reform, a

direct consequence of the poor  relations between Paris and

Washington....  The fact that Washington and  Paris

overreact about matters of diplomatic protocol is indeed 

indicative of the acrimony characterizing their

relationship.  Almost  everywhere, in Bosnia, the Maghreb,

in Africa, in the Middle East, at the  UN, France's

attitude has been in conflict with America's hegemony.... 

With  regard to NATO reforms, the conflict has become a

caricature of  itself....  Paris has asked that the

Southern command should be given to a  European. 

Washington has falsely but intentionally interpreted it as 

France's demand for the command....  One might be tempted

to believe what  some experts say: that Paris and

Washington are using these pretexts to  avoid NATO's

renovation for now."



"France's Piteous Retreat"



Jacques Amalric wrote in left-of-center Liberation (12/16):

"It is difficult  and risky for an average-sized nation to

act as if it were a  superpower....   Chirac has lost on

all fronts.  Not only has Clinton managed  to oust Boutros

Ghali, he has also been successful in imposing his 

candidate....  France, isolated, had no choice but to begin

a piteous  retreat and concede...that Annan may after all

make a good secretary general.  This wonderful conjuring

act barely hides our leaders'  forgetfulness: In this post-

Cold War era, there is only one superpower  left.  And if

one wants to measure up, one needs some allies. It was not 

the case during this UN fiasco....  The time is over when

France's diplomacy  could find its essence in Soviet-

American rivalry. Russia, faced with a  burgeoning Europe,

prefers by far to have a privileged dialogue with 

Washington, via NATO." 



"France Has Lost Some Of Its Importance In Africa"



Stephane Dupont said in right-of-center Les Echos (12/16):

"French officials  were never too happy about Annan's

personality....  Also, he comes  from a part of Africa

outside France's `sphere of influence.'  His  nomination is

clearly a setback for French diplomacy.  In spite of 

France's continued presence and influence in Africa...many

African  countries will now draw certain conclusions:

France has lost some of its  importance in Africa, mostly

in its role within international  organizations."



"Should We Take This Fight Seriously?"



Guillaume Goubert wondered in Catholic La Croix (12/16):

"Is the 'Solana Toast'  going to start a war between France

and the United States?  Who is telling the  truth (about

this incident?)  It is hardly important. What is important

is  that the incident lead to clarifying U.S.- French

relations.  In the past  months, subjects of friction have

been numerous....  But France and the United States are an

old couple which has been fighting for 49 years.... 

(France) has  not given up addressing the world, a role

which Washington does not want  to share. But at the same

time, in crucial moments, France has never  failed the

United States....  And the United States recognizes this

willingly, adding that  there are also advantages to having

a partner with ideas and a will of  its own....  This is

why we should not take too seriously this period of 

tension. There will be others, to the delight of most

commentators." 







"U.S.-France:  The Start Of A Reconciliation"



Michel Colomes commented in right-of-center weekly Le Point

(12/14), "The accumulation of differences which have

recently sprung up between France and the United States

looks very much like grounds for a divorce.  And yet, after

a series of sweet and sour exchanges--with some very

uncivil gestures like de Charette's snub toward

Christopher--the time has come for a change in tone:  In

Washington and in Paris, the word is out to calm things

down....  What is important, according to the optimists--

mandated?--is the great relationship between the two

presidents and the closeness in their policies for the long

term."



"A Snub Or A Ploy?"



Right-of-center France Soir held (12/13), "The United

States is fit to be tied about the de Charette-Christopher

incident....  This affair illustrates the state of

exasperation reached recently in French-American

relations....  Paris denies the incident which yesterday

had both chanceries in a state of agitation....  The

incident may at first appear minor, but it shows the high

degree of sensitivity which exists in Franco-American

relations."



"What Happened?"



According to Baudoin Bollaert in right-of-center Le Figaro

(12/13): "Paris denies,  while Washington confirms....  Did

nothing happen then? It would be too  simple....  It is

easy to understand the reaction of a high U.S. official. 

But it is difficult to imagine that de Charette would have

knowingly  snubbed the U.S. secretary of state. The two men

have had their  differences, but they have always had

respect for one another. A few days ago de Charette made a

gift to Christopher of the year's French literary 

prizes....  Nothing forced him to make such a gesture."



"Climate Certainly Not Favorable"



In left-of-center Liberation (12/13), Jacques Amalric

observed concerning the search for an African to head the

UN:  "This assassin's game could go on forever, with total

disregard for the candidates themselves, if the choice did

not have to be made by December 17....  Certain Quai

d'Orsay experts are advising the Elysee to negotiate:  A

vote for Annan against the promise for the position of

deputy secretary general.  It would be surprising if Chirac

were to go back on his position, especially in these times

of French-U.S. confrontation in Africa, the Middle East and

NATO reforms.  The climate is certainly not favorable when

we see Washington and Paris arguing whether or not de

Charette congratulated Christopher in Brussels....  These

infantile conflicts exist only on the surface....  They

could deprive Africa of their candidate."



"UN: France's Dilemma"



Readers of right-of-center Le Figaro (12/12) saw this piece

by Jean-Louis Turlin: "With its UN vote (against Annan),

France is being suspected of wanting to get back at the

United States....  The French do  not appreciate the two

votes of `discouragement' against the three  francophone

candidates and attributed them to Washington and London."



"UN Secretary General Vote Little To Do With Candidates'

Merits"



Afsane Bassir Pour judged in left-of-center Le Monde

(12/12): "Results of this first vote have little to do with

the merits of  the candidates but rather with the rivalries

existing between France and  the United States.... A

diplomat confided: 'France's veto is not directed against

the  candidate; it is directed against the United States.'"







"Pawns In U.S.-French Duel"



In the opinion of Agnes Rotivel in Catholic La Croix

(12/12): "'The complex game being played out at the 

UN...underscores today's crisis in Franco-American

relations; a sort of  psychological

misunderstanding...where the slightest dispute takes on 

dramatic proportions,' admits one of the (UN)

candidates....  A certain amount of  exasperation is

beginning to emerge among African candidates who do not 

appreciate being used as pawns in this duel between France

and the United States." 



"NATO Postponed"



Left-of-center Le Monde's Daniel Vernet maintained (12/12):

"The restructuring of  NATO has been postponed because of a

dispute between France and the United States over the

Southern command....  This has led to the adjournment of a

global agreement on NATO reforms.... Jacques Chirac has

committed his authority to  the issue, because he feels it

is symbolic of NATO's capacity for  change....  In answer

to Washington's excuse that Europe is not sufficiently 

active in the region, Paris has answered that we must get

out of this vicious circle whereby Europe is kept under

U.S. tutelage because it does not assume its

responsibilities. On the contrary, says Paris, it is by 

giving Europe responsibilities that it will become

committed.... Solutions  to end the stalemate have been

systematically rejected by both  parties." 



"NATO:  U.S. Instrument Of Influence"



Rene Lamy asserted in communist l'Humanite (12/12):

"America's stance  over NATO's enlargement to the East can

be explained by its geostrategy  to conserve world

leadership....  NATO should have disappeared after the end 

of the Cold War, but Clinton's administration is trying to

use it as an  instrument of influence in Eastern and

Central Europe, thereby opposing West  European nations in

what they feel is their 'private preserve.'" 



GERMANY:   "Rough Winds Between France, U.S."



Paris correspondent Erich Bonse filed the following

editorial for  business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf

(12/16), "U.S.-French relations are currently not under a

lucky  star.  The governments in Washington and Paris are

having a row not only  about their policy in the Middle

East and Africa, but also about the reform of NATO.  This

is why it is now the more pleasant that one  conflict has

been settled:  the controversy about Boutros Ghali.... 

This  French concession, however, is tantamount to a grave

French defeat.  The  United States succeeded not only in

torpedoing Boutros Ghali's re-election, but it also

succeeded in isolating France on the African  continent....





"For the Paris government which considers itself to be the

advocate  of Africa, this is the more annoying because the

Washington government  is now also disputing France's

leadership role in Africa.  Outgoing  Secretary of State

Warren Christopher said in October that the Dark Continent

is no longer France's unique sphere of influence.  Only 

recently, the United States asserted its view, saying that

the sending of  an intervention force to the trouble spot

of Eastern Zaire would no  longer be necessary.  The Paris

government considers this move and similar ones before to

be an attempt to enforce U.S. hegemonic interests without

showing  consideration for French or European interests. 

The episode last week during a farewell dinner for Warren

Christopher in Brussels...made clear  how sensitively the

Paris government reacts....  The French government denied

the story, but the impression remains that a rough wind is

blowing  over the Atlantic."











"A Clinton-Chirac Duel At Dawn Might Be Best Solution"



Adrian Zielcke opined in an editorial in centrist

Stuttgarter Zeitung (12/13), "Adult men obviously have

nothing better to do than return to kindergarten times once

in a while.... The following happened:  Warren Christopher,

President Clinton's loyal secretary of state, will give up

his office.  And of course, during the latest meeting of

NATO's foreign ministers, Secretary General Solana raised

his glass and proposed a toast to Warren Christopher.  But

at the same moment Solana raised his glass, one member of

the round got up and left the room.  It was France's

Foreign Minister de Charette.  An embarrassing quiet

hovered over the room, and the cordial farewell failed.



"France and the United States are keeping up a running

quarrel against each other.  The controversy focuses on

influence in Africa, AFSOUTH,  their own significance in

the Middle East...and it is now being continued in the UN

Security Council....  There is no doubt that Boutros

Ghali's successor is to be an African...but now the

Americans have dared to support an African who does not

speak French.  The consequence was that France used its

right to veto and now the United States has vetoed the

French candidate.



"We are warning our friends against waging an open war: 

The United  States, whose cultural influence the French

have wanted to restrict for a  long time, could send

Terminator Arnold Schwarzeneggger into the fight  and some

other rambos, which cannot be stopped even by the force de 

frappe.  Maybe a duel between Jacques Chirac and Bill

Clinton at dawn  would be the only way out."

 

BRITAIN:  "U.S. Fury At French Snub To Christopher"



The conservative Daily Telegraph reported  (12/13):

"American officials reacted with fury yesterday to a snub

of the outgoing secretary of state by the French foreign

minister....  Mr. Herve de Charette is seen by many of his

staff as a bumbling amateur and is reported to irritate

Prime Minister Juppe, who is said to have told aides that

de Charette 'is not up to the job.'"



"French Diplomatic Intransigence Makes Waves Across The

Atlantic"



The liberal Guardian reported (12/13): "Long-simmering

transatlantic resentment of France's assertive foreign

policy is coming to the boil as President Chirac stands his

ground in confrontations with Washington over the UN and

NATO.  The public bickering grew louder yesterday after

reports that Foreign Minister de Charette walked out during

a toast to Secretary of State Christopher in Brussels.... 

The incident seemed to reflect the gloomy state of Franco-

American relations....  France and the United States have

clashed most bitterly when one is seen as 'trespassing' on

the other's traditional sphere of influence."



BELGIUM:  "French And Americans Do Not Speak Same Language"



Maroun Labaki commented in independent Le Soir (12/13),

"Angered by the fate of the Egyptian diplomat who was their

favorite, the French are now opposing the appointment of

Ghanaian Kofi Annan, the Americans'  candidate.  France

solemnly demands that the secretary general speak French. 

This is already somewhat particular....  French is a

marvelous language and we should all be proud of it.  But

is it reasonable to dig such trenches and to conjure up

such defensive lines around our language?...  Moreover,

Kofi Annan speaks perfect French.  That is not the issue. 

It is the sulkiness that marks French-American relations. 

It showed up at the UN and also at NATO, where French and

Americans clashed this week--it happened in Brussels--with

regard to the controversial Southern command of the

Atlantic Organization.



"An incident deserves to be mentioned in this respect. 

Yesterday, the influential International 





Herald Tribune, quoting the not less influential Washington

Post, reported on its front page that French Minister of

Foreign Affairs Herve de Charette insulted his American

counterpart Warren Christopher to whom a friendly homage

was being paid on the eve of his political retirement.



"According to our American colleagues, the chief of French

diplomacy stood up and left the lunch table at the moment

when glasses were being raised to the health of the

secretary of state....  'Wrong!'   Indignant, Herve de

Charette denounced the 'maneuver' and denied everything: 

He was there and did not stand up.  NATO also denied the

incident.  Questioned, a State Department official

nevertheless asserted, yesterday, that the French minister

'was the only one who did not congratulate the secretary of

state.'  The French and the Americans do not speak the same

language." 



DENMARK:  "France's Unrealistic Attempts To Act Like A

Superpower"



An op-ed piece by the French correspondent of center-right

Jyllands-Posten (12/16) criticized French foreign policy.

In particular, the newspaper expressed annoyance concerning

French attitudes toward the UN and NATO's Southern Command: 

"Relations between the United States and France have

reached an all-time low since Jacques Chirac became

president.... When Christopher was in Africa recently, the

French Minister of Cooperation, Jacques Gofrain, criticized

the United States for interfering in a French sphere of

interest.... Frenchmen even allege that the United States

sank French plans to initiate a military/humanitarian

campaign in Zaire because the United States did not want to

create problems for the Tutsi revolutionaries....  The

French reacted violently to the American veto of Boutros-

Ghali. They tried to get a francophone African elected as

his successor, but the Americans won the battle. 

Nonetheless, Chirac scored a few points with the Arabs at

the expense of the United States and Israel.



"Earlier this year the French forced their way into the

Middle East peace negotiations....    The French president

has reintroduced his country into the military section of

NATO. He did this to give the Alliance's military structure

a European element. This is the reason that he has demanded

that NATO's Southern Command should be given to a

Frenchman....  Through his ambitious foreign policy,

(Chirac) hopes to distract attention from France's many

economic and social problems.  It would be a shame if

Western unity was destroyed by France's unrealistic

attempts to act like a superpower in competition with the

United States."



SPAIN:  "Rebirth Of Conflict Among Allies" 



J. Valenzuela wrote (12/12) for liberal El Pais from 

Washington: "This confrontation between the United States

and France over Boutros Ghali's successor is the rebirth of

a 'conflict among allies.'  Chirac has, once  again, raised

the Gaullist banner of French and European autonomy 

(against Washington) on a series of issues ranging from the

Middle East to  NATO reform."



                                 AFRICA

                                    

TOGO:  "David And Goliath" 



An inside-page commentary in La Depeche (12/16), a monthly

independent newspaper close to President Eyadema's Togolese

People's Rally, stressed, "From Bamako to Kigali,

Washington these days does not stop issuing warning signals

on her true intentions in Africa.  In this battle between

David and Goliath, France is in a delicate position

because, after 30 years of cooperation between Paris and

francophone Africa, it is only misery and desolation. 

Whose fault is it?  Africans who refuse to assume their

responsibilities through work or a France, which like other

foreign forces, looks out for her own interests?"







                              LATIN AMERICA

                                    

ARGENTINA:  "Chirac's Unfulfilled Desire" 



Marina Aizen, New York-based correspondent for leading

Clarin, wrote  (12/14) regarding Annan's election at the

UN, "There were no substantial political reasons for the

battle between the  United States and France, simply an

unfulfilled desire of Jacques Chirac's government  to

prevent Washington from manipulating the fate of the UN

according  to its own wishes."



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                                12/19/96

         



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