Obama and Hollande say trust restored after NSA spying

Obama: France is "not only America's oldest ally but one of our closest allies"

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US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande have reaffirmed their nations' alliance after revelations of US snooping.

On day two of his trip to the US, the French leader said at the White House that mutual trust had been restored.

Mr Hollande, who was greeted by a military honour guard and a 21-gun salute, attends a state dinner later.

Relations broke down in 2003 between the countries when France opposed US President George W Bush's war in Iraq.

At Tuesday's press conference, Mr Obama said they had forged bilateral ties "unimaginable even a decade ago".

New special relationship?

Standing by his side, the French leader said they had resolved their issues over digital eavesdropping by the US National Security Agency.

State dinner menu

At Tuesday's state dinner, the first at the White House since 2011, guests will be served:

First course: American Osetra Caviar, Fingerling Potato Veloute, Quail Eggs, Crisped Chive Potatoes

Second course: White House's Winter Garden Salad

Main course: Rib Eye Beef, Blue Cheese, Charred Shallots, Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Chard

Dessert: Hawaiian Chocolate-Malted Ganache, Vanilla Ice Cream and Tangerines

"We wanted to fight against terrorism, but we also wanted to meet a number of principles," said Mr Hollande, who will be the first French president to be celebrated with an official state dinner in 18 years.

"And we are making headway in this co-operation. Mutual trust has been restored."

Mr Obama announced he had accepted Mr Hollande's invitation to go to France in June to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy during World War Two.

He chuckled when asked if US-French ties were now warmer even than the so-called special relationship between America and Britain.

Mr Obama said that France and England were both outstanding European partners and, just like his two daughters, he would never choose between either country.

The two leaders also discussed the conflict in Syria, a former French colony whose civil war both the US and France have been working to end.

Mr Obama registered "enormous frustration" over faltering peace talks.

He also threatened to "come down like a tonne of bricks" on any firms in violation of sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Scandal

The American president was responding to a reporter's question about last week's trip by more than 100 French executives to Tehran, a trip the US state department described as "not helpful".

Mr Hollande said he had reminded those business leaders that sanctions remain in effect and no commercial agreements could be signed without a comprehensive nuclear deal.

US President Barack Obama (middle) and French President Francois Hollande on the South Lawn at the White House on 11 February 2014 French President Francois Hollande (centre) was treated to a military review on the White House south lawn

Mr Obama, meanwhile, praised France's military role in helping quell extremist violence in Africa. The US has provided some help in French missions to Mali and the Central African Republic.

The French leader later had lunch with Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

But the main event is Tuesday night's black-tie state dinner on the White House lawn.

More than 300 dignitaries and celebrities will dine on caviar, quail eggs and rib-eye steak, while dancing to the music of singer Mary J Blige.

On Wednesday, Mr Hollande, 59, will travel to San Francisco and meet chiefs of Silicon Valley giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

His long-time partner Valerie Trierweiler did not travel with him, after they split last month following reports he had an affair with an actress.

Following Mr Hollande's arrival on Monday afternoon, he and Mr Obama flew to Monticello in the state of Virginia.

They visited the home of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the US, an envoy to France and the third US president.

First Lady Michelle Obama (left), French President Francois Hollande (middle) and US President Barack Obama (right) at the White House on 11 February 2014 Mr Hollande (centre) will attend a sumptuous state dinner at the White House, decorated with French touches, but he is without a date after splitting from his girlfriend amid reports he had an affair
US President Barack Obama (left) and French President Francois Hollande on the South Lawn at the White House on 11 February 2014 Mr Hollande was greeted with a 21-gun salute at the White House, before both leaders met two American military veterans who served in France during World War II
US President Barack Obama (right) and French President Francois Hollande at the White House on 11 February 2014 Mr Hollande - currently facing the lowest approval ratings recorded for a modern French leader - is under pressure to boost France's economy

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