French President Jacques Chirac and US President George W. Bush discussed how Europe might allay Washington's concerns about moves to lift an EU arms embargo on China, a top US official said.
"I would not say that the two sides are close to a compromise, if by that you mean that the United States is close to lifting its objections," said the official, who did not wish to be identified.
The issue was one of the most contentious during what the official described as an "extremely cordial" dinner and "one of their best meetings and best extended discussions ever, in fact."
Asked what made it such a good meeting, the official said: "It covered a great deal of ground and it did so very efficiently, without set piece speeches, long, turgid presentations of positions or reading of points."
In addition to discussing Iran's nuclear program, the Middle East peace process, their joint determination to get Syria to end its military presence in Lebanon, and Iraq's future, the two leaders discussed the arms embargo.
"The president explained the problems the United States has with the European Union's advanced discussion of lifting the arms embargo," said the official. The exchange was not "a polemic or an argument."
"It became clear that President Chirac understood the American problems," and the two leaders discussed how the European Union might allay some of those concerns, he said.
But neither leader dwelled on their painful break over the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, when Chirac deeply angered Washington by rallying global opposition to the war.
"The United States is not looking to refight the battles of 2003. That debate is a specific debate which will be had by historians," the anonymous official said. "I had no sense that the French were interested in re-fighting that."
The official said he had the "strong sense" that France wanted to be "helpful" in the wake of January 30 elections in Iraq.
Source: China Daily/agencies