‘Obama? That is my buddy,’ says Sarkozy

July 25th, 2008 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama
Paris, July 25 (DPA) As he prepared to meet US presidential candidate Barack Obama later Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a French newspaper that the Illinois senator was his “buddy.” “Obama? That’s my buddy,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of Le Figaro.

“Contrary to my diplomatic advisors, I never thought Hillary Clinton had a chance. I always said Obama would be chosen” as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.

“I am the only French person who knows him,” Sarkozy said, recounting that he had met Obama during a visit to the United States in 2006, when he was Interior Minister.

It will do Sarkozy little harm to present himself as close to Obama, who is very popular in France.

Sarkozy himself is trusted by fewer than 40 percent of his compatriots, but in a poll published July 16 by the Pew Research Center, Obama received 84 percent approval ratings in France, the highest in Europe.

By comparison, Obama’s putative Republican opponent for the US presidency was trusted by only 33 percent of French respondents.

Obama’s popularity in France is striking in a country where minorities have made little progress toward equality.

For example, in last year’s French general elections, only one minority lawmaker was elected from the mainland to the 577-seat National Assembly; 15 others won seats from France’s overseas territories, where the majority of the population is black.

In addition, there are no minority senators, and only a small handful of the more than 36,000 city halls throughout the country are occupied by black or Maghreb mayors.

Although French law makes it illegal to collect data according to race, it is estimated that 10 to 14 percent of France’s population of 62 million is of North African or sub-Saharan African descent.

The head of the French civil rights organization CRAN, Patrick Lozes, said he hoped Obama’s visit would shake things up in France’s racial relations.

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