|U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and visiting French President Francois Hollande inspect guard of honor during a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, Fed. 11, 2014. Barack Obama on Tuesday welcomed his French counterpart Francois Hollande to the White House with fanfare and warm praise of bilateral ties. The French leader was greeted with trumpet fanfares and a 21-gun salute on a sunny and chilly morning, for his state visit to the United States, the first by a French head of state since 1996. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)|
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11-- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday welcomed his French counterpart Francois Hollande to the White House with fanfare and warm praise of bilateral ties.
The French leader was greeted with trumpet fanfares and a 21- gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House on a sunny and chilly morning, for his state visit to the United States, the first by a French head of state since 1996.
"France is America's oldest ally," Obama said. "And in recent years we've deepened our alliance."
In an op-ed piece published Monday in The Washington Post and Le Monde newspapers, Obama and Hollande hailed a "transformed" alliance between their nations, highlighting bilateral cooperation on Iran, Syria, counterterrorism, development in Africa and other continents, security, trade and growth, and climate change.
"A decade ago, few would have imagined our two countries working so closely together in so many ways. But in recent years our alliance has transformed," the two presidents wrote.
"Like generations before us, we now have the task not simply to preserve our enduring alliance, but to make it new for our time," Obama said at the welcome ceremony.
"No one nation can meet today's challenges alone or seize its opportunities," he added. "More nations must step up and meet the responsibilities of leadership, and that is what the United States and France are doing together."
For his part, Hollande spoke of joint efforts with Washington to fight terrorism, counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, solve the crises facing the Middle East, support Africa's development and fight global warming and climate change.
"Today we stand united, and we have built a model of friendship that is the best recipe for a better world," said the French president.
Bilateral talks at Obama's Oval Office are expected to focus on Iran's nuclear program, the civil war in Syria, the instability in Africa, climate change and negotiations over a trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union.
Upon Hollande's arrival Monday, Obama took his guest aboard his Air Force One jet to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello plantation estate outside Charlottesville, Virginia, for a visit designed to illustrate long-term ties between their countries.
Jefferson, the third American president and a famed Francophile, served as U.S. minister to France from 1785 to 1789.
Obama is scheduled to host a state dinner for Hollande at the White House Tuesday evening.