WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday the French, who opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, sometimes annoy him but he annoys them too.
Powell made the light-hearted comments in an interview with Philadelphia’s WPHT radio station in which he said the United States and countries that opposed the war that toppled former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are getting over their dispute.
“France and the United States have had a long relationship. They have been with us through thick and thin. They were with us when we fought for our independence… But we have had disagreements with the French,” Powell said according to a transcript released by the State Department.
“The French are a proud people that have strong views about things and from time to time, yes, they have annoyed me,” he said when asked how exasperated he got dealing with the French. “And I’m sure from time to time I have annoyed them.”
Powell, who last year said France would suffer unspecified consequences for opposing the Iraq war, said he and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin had “the most candid and direct conversations about what we do that annoys the other.”
“Now we are moving on, and the French and the Germans and all those who opposed our actions are positioning themselves to see how they can best help us as we reconstruct Iraq and give the Iraqi people a better life,” he added.
The United States initially banned France and other countries that did not join the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq from bidding on prime contracts for $18.6 billion in U.S.-funded Iraqi reconstruction projects.
In a sign the ice is breaking, President Bush on Jan. 13 said Canada can bid on the second round of these contracts and U.S. officials have said France, Germany Russia and perhaps all those who opposed the war may soon be permitted to do so.