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Bush to ‘overnight’ in France

Canton (Ohio), April 24 (Reuters): The White House today quashed rumours that US President George W. Bush would not stay overnight in France during his trip to the G8 economic summit in Evian later this spring.

“The President will be overnighting in France,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush flew to Ohio to discuss the economy and Iraq. “There were never plans for him to overnight anywhere else.”

Relations between Washington and Paris have been chilled by France’s staunch opposition to the US-led war with Iraq. US officials have said there would be “consequences.”

Reports on Bush’s sleeping arrangements during the Group of Eight summit said the president would stay at a hotel across the border in Switzerland instead of in the French Alps.

US officials have sought to tread a careful line between venting their anger at France for its vow to veto any UN resolution authorising the war and the need to maintain working ties with one of the US’ longest-standing allies.

Secretary of State Colin Powell answered with a single word — “yes” — when asked this week if France would suffer consequences.

He then spoke to French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin the next day and an aide said the two laughed about the headlines his comment launched.

While US officials are circumspect in public, their pique shows up in gestures like the US Congress renaming French fries “Freedom fries” and Air Force One serving “Freedom Toast” rather than “French toast.”

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