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Cablegate: The First Lady's Jan 14-17 Visit to Paris

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #7928/01 3631414
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291414Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3975
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS PARIS 007928

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR THE OFFICE OF THE FIRST LADY
ALSO FOR NSC (JULIE FISHER, MATT PALMER)
DEPT FOR EUR AND EUR/WE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP BUSH LAURA PREL PGOV FR EUN UNO NATO
UNESCO
SUBJECT: THE FIRST LADY'S JAN 14-17 VISIT TO PARIS


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; please handle accordingly.

Introduction
------------

1. (U) The First Lady's visit to France comes at an ideal
moment, just as the French are contemplating a generational
change in their politics and reassessing their role in the
world. The First Lady will be able to highlight our historic
friendship, our effective modern-day collaboration, and our
respect for France's cultural contributions. The First Lady
will be warmly welcomed, in Paris and at UNESCO, and her
visit's themes -- of education and advocacy for children --
will resonate strongly here.

A New Era of Collaboration
--------------------------

2. (SBU) When the First Lady last visited in 2004, France
and President Chirac were still feeling emboldened by their
opposition to our intervention in Iraq and Chirac's alliance
of convenience with Germany and Russia. Since then, thanks
to the efforts of the President and Secretary, and a bit of
realism in France, the two countries have put aside their
differences over Iraq in order to work more vigorously
together on other international issues of particular concern:
Lebanon; Iranian nuclear weapons; the humanitarian disaster
in Darfur; and others. Differences remain, over our
respective visions for NATO, Turkey's place in Europe, and
how best to manage an increasingly authoritarian Russia, but
the relationship overall is close and productive.

3. (SBU) The French remain keenly interested in whether and
to what degree the President will modify our Iraq policy, but
this interest will be overshadowed by the turbulent domestic
political scene here in France, during the First Lady's
visit. The campaign for the spring 2007 presidential
elections enters into full swing with the new year. On
January 15, the morning after the First Lady's arrival,
Interior Minister Sarkozy will presumably be formally
designated by the center-right Union for a Popular Movement
(UMP) as its presidential candidate. The other main
presidential contender, Socialist Party candidate Segolene
Royal, will be planning her first trip to the United States
shortly after the First Lady's visit.

France's Upcoming Political Choice
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) Many in France will assume -- given Sarkozy's
recent trip to the U.S., where he met with the President and
called for a warmer relationship with the U.S. -- that the
Administration is hoping for a Sarkozy victory. But France
will also be interested in the First Lady's reactions to
France's first electable female presidential candidate. The
2007 elections will mark a change of generations and, for the
first time in many years, the two main political parties will
be running candidates who insist they are outsiders and
willing to shake up France's comfortable but underperforming
status quo. The end of Chirac's tenure has been marked by
considerable French uncertainty about the "French model" for
integration and economic development (witness the November
2005 unrest in the suburbs and the student protests against
labor reforms), its future within the European Union (France
voted against the EU constitutional treaty), and the world
(fears of the effects of globalization). The electorate's
hopes are high that this election will mark a new beginning
for France.

5. (SBU) President Chirac's agenda during his last months of
office has been to maintain his own visibility in the one
area where he can still have a public impact and maintains
unmitigated decision-making control: French foreign policy.
In recent months he has multiplied his announcements on new
foreign policy initiatives (the latest being a proposal for
creation of a Contact Group on Afghanistan) and given full
rein to his politically popular "soft" initiatives in the
areas of climate change, a tax on worldwide travel for
HIV/AIDS, a proposal for a UN Environmental Organization, and
what he terms the "dialogue of civilizations." He may
personally chair the January 25 conference in Paris on
Lebanon that Secretary Rice will be attending.

Our Shared Interests and Values
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) The First Lady's meetings at UNESCO and her
participation in the conference sponsored by Mrs. Chirac on
missing and exploited children will form the centerpiece of
the visit. At UNESCO, the First Lady will have an
opportunity to highlight her role as Ambassador for the UN
Literacy Decade and build on the September White Conference
on Literacy in New York. She will be able to present U.S.
views on teacher training in Africa, and convey a message on
the practical initiatives the U.S. sees as useful for the
organization. Mrs. Chirac's conference offers a forum for
conveying international solidarity on an issue that
transcends the geographical, religious and racial boundaries
that divide the world. President Chirac is scheduled to make
opening remarks at this conference.

7. (SBU) The First Lady's visit will allow us to convey a
number of themes to advance U.S. interests:

-- The U.S. and France are partners in addressing global
challenges, be they Lebanese sovereignty and Iranian
proliferation, or missing and exploited children. The value
of our age-old friendship lies in what we do together in the
world today.

-- The U.S. will work productively with whomever emerges from
France's 2007 elections to lead this key ally, and we rejoice
in France's vibrant democracy, the roots of which intertwine
with our own.

-- President Chirac's legacy in the international arena is
significant and we salute his leadership role over his many
years in office.

-- Our commitment to UNESCO is rooted in the important work
that organization has at this critical time, in particular
with regard to its educational mandate.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm
HOFMANN

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