Francois Hollande arrives in US for state visit to Obama

Obama sees France as a key partner, while Hollande hopes to show France remains an important world power, reports the BBC's Barbara Plett-Usher

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French President Francois Hollande has arrived in the US for a state visit, as he and President Barack Obama tout their co-operation on issues from Iran to trade and climate change.

In articles published jointly in US and French newspapers, they said "our deepening partnership offers a model for international co-operation".

A state dinner will be held on Tuesday.

Mr Hollande is currently mired in low approval ratings at home and a personal scandal.

After Mr Hollande's arrival on Monday afternoon, he and Mr Obama flew to Monticello in the state of Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson. He was one of the founders of the US, an envoy to France and the third US president.

The two toured Jefferson's home, on the campus of the University of Virginia, stopping by his study, the kitchen and the quarters of slaves who helped build and run the estate.

'Our current bond'
US President Barack Obama (R) and French President Francois Hollande tour the bedroom inside the Virginia residence of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia 10 February 2014 Mr Hollande noticed one of the books on display at Monticello was in French

In remarks after their tour, Mr Hollande said Monticello was a symbol of US-French relations, "because here [Marquis de] Lafayette was welcomed".

He was referring to a French aristocrat who served in the Continental Army, which defeated the British and won American independence.

"Together, Lafayette and Jefferson imagined something that seemed impossible - mainly American independence and human rights and the rights of the citizen," Mr Hollande said through a translator.

On the menu

At Tuesday's state dinner, the first at the White House since 2011, guests will be served:

First course: American Osetra Caviar, Fingerling Potato Veloute, Quail Eggs, Crisped Chive Potatoes

Second course: White House's Winter Garden Salad

Main course: Rib Eye Beef, Blue Cheese, Charred Shallots, Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Chard

Dessert: Hawaiian Chocolate-Malted Ganache, Vanilla Ice Cream and Tangerines

The US president said the visit was an opportunity to reflect on the history of US-French relations.

"Tomorrow we'll have an opportunity to talk about not only our current bonds and alliance but also ways that we can strengthen our co-operation in the future," Mr Obama said.

In articles published jointly in the Washington Post and Le Monde on Monday, the presidents hailed their efforts in the Middle East.

They praised negotiations with Iran that led to an interim agreement on its disputed nuclear programme.

In Syria, they said their threat of force had "paved the way for the plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons".

Mr Obama and Mr Hollande also urged action to combat climate change, writing their countries could "expand the clean energy partnerships that create jobs and move us toward low-carbon growth".

Ties between the two nations have warmed considerably since France refused to support the US-led invasion of Iraq under President George W Bush.

With rancour over the Iraq War a fading memory, the two countries now find themselves largely in step on a wide range of issues.

French President Jacques Chirac and US President Bill Clinton, joined by their wives, during a 1996 state visit Mr Hollande's trip is the first French state visit to the US since Jacques Chirac visited Bill Clinton in 1996
French President Nicolas Sarkozy with US President George W Bush, during a working visit to the US in 2007 Not the first French president to try to build bridges, Nicolas Sarkozy paid a working visit in 2007
French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing alongside US President Gerald Ford, Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing and Betty Ford, during a visit to the US in May 1976 Arriving by Concorde, French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing visited US President Gerald Ford in 1976

But the run-up to Mr Hollande's visit has been overshadowed by his domestic situation.

His long-time partner Valerie Trierweiler did not travel with him, after the breakdown in their relationship following accusations he had had affair.

Lavish state dinner

On Tuesday Mr Hollande and Mr Obama will hold bilateral talks on the global economic recovery, strengthening the Eurozone, the French president's effort to boost the French economy, Iran, and other topics, according to US officials.

After a joint news conference, Mr Hollande will have lunch with Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry at the state department.

In the evening, Mr Obama will play host to Mr Hollande for a lavish official state dinner at the White House.

During his time in the US, Mr Hollande will also travel to San Francisco and meet chiefs of Silicon Valley giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

There he may face questions over his government's desire for uniform taxation on internet companies - many of them US-based - that skirt high taxes in France.

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