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France's Sarkozy Enjoys Burst Of Public Support

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France's Sarkozy Enjoys Burst Of Public Support

France's Sarkozy Enjoys Burst Of Public Support

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

But Eleanor Beardsley reports that for the most part, Sarkozy's bold actions have earned him a rare respite from the usual barrage of criticism.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: The words you most often hear the French use to describe their president are: overbearing, hyperactive, impetuous, paranoid. But these terms have been missing from the national vocabulary, ever since Nicolas Sarkozy became Libya's liberator last weekend.

NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Through Translator) Peaceful Libyan citizens who are only asking to choose their own destiny are in danger of dying. We have the duty to reply to their anguished call, in the name of a universal conscience that cannot tolerate such a crime.

FRANZ OLIVIER GIESBERT: When there is a crisis, you know, he knows how to decide quickly. You know, he takes his phone. He calls and convince. And he's very good at this job.

BEARDSLEY: Franz Olivier Giesbert is editor of the weekly magazine Le Point. He says Sarkozy masters complicated international crises but bungles the small things.

OLIVIER GIESBERT: He's awful when things are doing well. He's just awful. But when there is a crisis, there he's always good. So it's a very strange personality which needs trouble - big problems - to be at his top.

BEARDSLEY: Another columnist, Alain Duhamel of Liberation, says there are two Sarkozys: one solves problems, the other creates them.

(SOUNDBITE OF JETS TAKING OFF)

BEARDSLEY: All week, French television has been showing French Rafale and Mirage jets taking off for missions to Libya. Polls show more than 60 percent of the French approve of the Libyan intervention. That's a huge turnaround for Sarkozy, whose poll numbers are usually at rock bottom.

DOMINIQUE MOISY: The French like their president to be the inheritor of the sun king or of Napoleon. To be flamboyant, to be highly visible, is a plus in a country like France.

BEARDSLEY: Unlike with Iraq, all the mainstream political parties support the Libyan operation, and Moisy says that's because there's a clear U.N. resolution and because the Arab nations are on board.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEARDSLEY: Anyway, says magazine editor Giesbert, Sarkozy has more pressing issues on his mind.

OLIVIER GIESBERT: There are two good times in a war: it's when you start and when you finish. The problem is: When are we going to finish?

BEARDSLEY: For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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