US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart have reaffirmed their mutual goals. French President Francois Hollande was greeted at the White House with trumpet fanfares and a 21-gun salute.
At the press conference on Tuesday, Obama said that the United States and France had agreed on sanctions against Iran.
"President Hollande and I agree on the need to continue enforcing existing sanctions even as we believe that new sanctions during these negotiations would endanger the possibility of a diplomatic solution," Obama said in the joint news conference with President Hollande. "And we remain absolutely united in our ultimate goal, which is preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Obama added.
Before formal talks began with Hollande, who is on a three-day state visit to Washington, Obama hailed the alliance between the US and France.
"We stand here because of each other," Obama said. "We owe our freedom to each other."
Syria 'is crumbling'
The civil war in Syria also played a large role in the talks between the two leaders.
"We still have a horrendous situation on the ground in Syria," Obama said in the press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"The state of Syria itself is crumbling," Obama added. "That is bad for Syria. It is bad for the region. It is bad for global national security."
Last fall, the United States and Russia helped negotiate an official end to Syria's chemical weapons program. However, only three shipments of chemicals have left the port of Latakia so far - considerably less than the 700 tons the country was supposed to dispose of by the end of 2013, under the agreement brokered by the US and Russia.
"It's only partial destruction and it certainly doesn't go far enough," Hollande said. He added that "chemical weapons have to be destroyed fully - and pressure will be exerted fully."
Friendship how far?
A reporter from the conservative Le Figaro asked whether France had replaced Great Britain as the best friend in Europe for the US. And then she followed by asking whether that might mean that the US might exempt France from the National Security Agency's espionage activities.
"I have two daughters, and they are both gorgeous and wonderful and I would never choose between them, and that's how I feel about my outstanding European partners: All of them are wonderful in their own ways," Obama said.
As for the spying: "We are committed to making sure that we are protecting and that we are committed to the privacy rights not just of American citizens but of citizens around the world," he said.
Hollande, too, spoke of espionage and amity.
"I have four children, so that makes it even more difficult for me to make any choice at all, but we're not trying to be anyone's favorites," Hollande said. "It's not about hierarchy," he added "It's just about being useful to the world."
He said that usefulness would endure despite the recent announcements by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
"Following the revelations that appeared due to Mr. Snowden, we clarified things, President Obama and myself," Hollande said, adding, "and then we endeavored toward cooperation."
mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP)
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