Obama invites Hollande to the White House

May 7, 2012 at 4:59 PM
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PARIS, May 7 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama invited French President-elect Francois Hollande to the White House and upcoming Group of Eight and NATO summits, the White House said.

In a phone call, Obama congratulated Hollande -- who won France's second and final round of voting Sunday with 51.7 percent of the vote -- saying he looked forward to working with him "on a range of shared economic and security challenges," the White House said.

Obama said he would welcome Hollande -- the first Socialist to win France's presidency since Francois Mitterrand in 1981 -- to Camp David in Maryland for the G8 Summit May 18-19 and to Chicago for the NATO summit May 20-21.

Obama is the president of the G8 this year.

Obama also "proposed that they meet beforehand at the White House," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement Sunday night.

Obama and Hollande "reaffirmed the important and enduring alliance between the people of the United States and France," Carney's statement said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acknowledging his defeat with 48.3 percent of the vote, announced he would again become "a French among the French."

"Francois Hollande is the president of the republic -- he must be respected," Sarkozy told supporters after calling Hollande to congratulate him. "I want to wish him good luck in the midst of these tests."

Obama also called Sarkozy to thank him for his leadership, friendship and partnership during challenging times globally, Carney said in another statement.

The president "expressed his appreciation for the valued cooperation that has characterized the relationship between the two leaders since January 2009," Carney's statement said.

Sarkozy became the latest European leader to lose his post amid economic upheaval and the first French incumbent to be rejected since Mitterrand defeated Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

Hollande's election is widely seen as a mandate to challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who worked closely with Sarkozy to impose deep spending cuts throughout the eurozone as a promised remedy to turn around the economies of heavily indebted European countries.

"We will bring back Europe on a track for jobs, growth and the future," Hollande said in a victory speech from the town of Tulle in central France where he was mayor.

"We're no longer doomed to austerity," he said.

Merkel called Hollande Sunday night, congratulating him on his victory, her spokesman said.

Hollande has said for months his first trip will be to Berlin.

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