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Sarkozy Highlights Franco-German Ties on First Foreign Visit
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke highly of the Franco-German friendship as he made his first trip abroad to Berlin just hours after being sworn in as French president.


"I want to tell the German government and the German people that the German-Franco friendship is holy for France and nothing can and will put this friendship in question," said Sarkozy at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before their working dinner.


Merkel meanwhile described Sarkozy's visit to Berlin on the day of his inauguration as a sign of a continuation of the "great friendship" between the two European powers.


Merkel, who also made her first foreign visit as German chancellor to France, was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Sarkozy on his election on May 6.


The German chancellor said on Wednesday that she is ready to work closely with the new French president to strengthen bilateral relations as well as to bring forward the European integration project.


She stressed the importance to "put the European Union on a new contractual basis up until 2009."


Sarkozy also promised to work together with Germany on the urgent task to bring the EU out of the current constitutional stalemate. "Europe is expecting us to take the initiative," Sarkozy said.


The top issue at Wednesday's talks will be how to make progress on the stalled EU constitutional treaty which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in referendums two years ago.


During election campaigns, Sarkozy has proposed the idea of a "mini treaty" comprising the essentials of the ill-fated constitution to allow the institutions of the 27-nation bloc to function fully.


Merkel, who is holding EU's half-year rotating presidency, is apparently in agreement with Sarkozy on the simplified plans in a bid to rescue the core of the constitutional proposal.


Apart from bilateral and European issues, Merkel and Sarkozy are expected to discuss international issues including EU-Russia relations and Iran nuclear issues.


(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2007)

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