Sarkozy Upsets French With U.S. Vacation
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
From Paris, Eleanor Beardsley reports.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Woman #1: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Woman #2: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: For a while, Sarkozy refused to speak to the French reporters, preferring instead to plunge into American crowds despite his shaky English.
NICOLAS SARKOZY: My English is so bad.
BEARDSLEY: Jean Lesieur, who runs the news and talk shows at the cable channel France 24, says Sarkozy's vacation is just another way to show he is different.
JEAN LESIEUR: Being the president of a country that is and has been so traditionally anti-American, the fact that he is going to the States for a vacation is obviously some kind of a challenge to intellectuals, especially now that George Bush being president, being so unpopular all over the world.
BEARDSLEY: A tanned and relaxed-looking French president interrupted his holiday to give a lakeside press conference on Sunday. He answered questions about the recent French arms deal with Libya that has created an uproar in Europe. He was adamant that the sale of $400 million worth of French missiles was not a condition for the release of the five Bulgarian medics held in Libya.
SARKOZY: (Through translator) What am I being criticized for? Getting contracts, creating jobs for French workers? Since 2004, Libya has been under no international embargo. These arms contracts are completely transparent and have been under negotiation for the last 18 months.
BEARDSLEY: Another issue at the top of the French news agenda has been the cost of the president's stay in the lavish Wolfeboro mansion on Lake Winnipesaukee. The estate, owned by a former Microsoft executive, is said to rent for $30,000 a week. Sarkozy also refused to apologize for that.
SARKOZY: (Through translator) I was invited by friends who rented a house here. What's the problem? I have the right to vacation like everyone else, and my family and I flew here on a regular commercial airline.
BEARDSLEY: But Lesieur believes the cost of Sarkozy's American holiday is meant to send another signal to a country where talk of money has always been considered dirty.
LESIEUR: Sarkozy is somebody who ran on that campaign to rehabilitate work and ambition, and for Sarkozy, money is good. And he's, in his way, showing it in this vacation.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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