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Biden hosts French President Emmanuel Macron in first state dinner

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U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron of France exchange a toast Thursday during a state dinner at the White House. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI
U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron of France exchange a toast Thursday during a state dinner at the White House. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and more than 300 guests Thursday night for the first state dinner at the White House since he took office nearly two years ago.

The tuxedoed affair was held on the South Lawn of the White House inside a spacious winter greenhouse outfitted with carpet, long dining tables, silver candelabras and ambient chandeliers.

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Biden and Cabinet officials were joined at the dinner by actress Jennifer Garner, singer John Legend and late-night talk host Stephen Colbert.

Dozens of military leaders, business executives and Washington lawmakers were also on hand, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

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Grammy-winning singer Jon Batiste performed.

The meal included beef with shallot marmalade and fresh Maine lobster, and an orange chiffon cake with roasted pears. Ice cream was served for dessert.

First lady Jill Biden had the tables at the event decorated with red roses, blue delphiniums and white irises to signify the national colors shared by France and the United States.

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"The symbols of our nation's capital and of France -- their intricate petals reflecting the interwoven history of our nations," she said in a statement.

State dinners, which are meant to foster goodwill between the United States and other world governments, have been a rich tradition at the White House for nearly 150 years.

President Ulysses S. Grant hosted the first such occasion when King Kalakaua of Hawaii came to Washington on Dec. 22, 1874.

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Through the years, the gatherings have become a star-studded affair, attended by A-list celebrities and domestic and foreign dignitaries.

Biden and Macron's meeting came more than a year after the United States backed out of a major nuclear submarine deal with France to replace Australia's aging fleet. Instead, the United States chose to partner with Australia and Great Britain on a $66 billion deal to build the vessels, which prompted the French president to recall his ambassadors from Washington.

Thursday's dinner was seen as a way for Biden to reconcile the high-stakes debacle and ease any tensions with the nation's longtime ally.

Macron arrived in Washington on Tuesday for the first state visit of Biden's presidency after diplomatic traditions were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The two leaders met amid Russia's continuing war in Ukraine, which has also served to strengthen the U.S.-French relationship as China's military was growing more aggressive in the Far East.

During talks before the dinner, Biden and Macron discussed the war, Iran's nuclear program, and the growing security threat posed by China in Africa and the Sea of Japan.

After emerging from the meeting, Macron said he would never force Ukraine to negotiate with Moscow to end Russia's invasion, while Biden said he would be willing to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin if he wanted to end the war.

Joe Biden hosts Emmanuel Macron for first state dinner

From left to right, American first lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, pose before attending a state dinner on the North Portico of the White House on December 1, 2022. Photo by Cliff Owen/UPI | License Photo

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