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French diplomat speaks at UMaine Differing opinions on Iraq discussed

April 20th, 2003

By Anthony Saucier, Of the NEWS Staff

Differing views on the war with Iraq cannot be allowed to upset long-term collaborations between the United States and France, according to the French diplomat for New England. Speaking at a reception at the Franco-American Centre at the University of Maine, Thierry Vankerk-Hoven, the Consul General of France in Boston, said that the period of differences soon would be history. “We have lived through a very difficult time in our bilateral mediations,” Vankerk-Hoven said to the two dozen people at the center. “France and the U.S. have to work together to fight the threat of terrorism. The important thing is to maintain a close dialog.” While the French government didn’t support the U.S.-led war with Iraq, the two countries maintain similar philosophies. “The United States and France can have differing opinions,” Vankerk-Hoven said. “We share the same values and principles on the defense of freedom.”

In his first trip to Maine since taking office six months ago, Vankerk-Hoven spent the day talking to Gov. John Baldacci and legislators in Augusta about the present climate of French-American relations and the preservation of Franco-American culture. Originally from Paris, Vankerk-Hoven previously served at French embassies in Madrid, London and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He said after the reception that he hasn’t really experienced the ‘French bashing’ felt by French people in other parts of the country. Similarly, ‘freedom fries’ and other antagonisms just don’t make sense, he said. “It’s ridiculous to have this sort of reaction at this point, especially when we have had such a long history of collaboration,” Vankerk-Hoven said. Close cooperation between the two countries is necessary to solve regional crises such as the Middle East conflict, Vankerk-Hoven said. “The important thing now is to work together and try to adopt a common position in the challenges we will face,” he said.

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Franco American Studies
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E-mail: francostudies@maine.edu
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
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