UK or France? Obama dodges question on preferences

French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with President Barack Obama after their joint news conference. Photo / AP
French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with President Barack Obama after their joint news conference. Photo / AP

US President Barack Obama said France and Britain - jealous rivals for US affection - were like his beloved daughters, Malia and Sasha, who he could not choose between.

Obama skillfully skipped through an Anglo-Gallic minefield when asked by a French reporter if America's oldest ally, and not Britain, was not now its best friend.

"I have two daughters," Obama said, as he stood with French President Francois Hollande at a White House news conference.

"They are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them.

"And that's how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways."

Obama spent Monday and Tuesday praising the restored US-France alliance - which dates from the revolutionary era over 200 years ago - but was almost ruptured over the Iraq war a decade ago.

But he has also learned the political perils of failing to pay sufficient homage to the US "special relationship" with Britain.

Early in his first term, he was lambasted by political foes for removing a bust of revered wartime prime minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

Obama will get the chance to stand tall with both Britain and France - when he travels to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June.

There he will join Hollande and Queen Elizabeth II.

Though what Her Majesty will think about her once-great empire being compared to a US president's offspring is unclear.

- AFP

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