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Sarkozy promises Obama help on Guantanamo closure
January 26, 2009 / 11:26 PM / in 9 years

Sarkozy promises Obama help on Guantanamo closure

(Recasts with details of Sarkozy, Medvedev calls)

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy told U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday that France stood ready to help with the planned closure of the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Obama’s phone call with Sarkozy was just one in a series he held with foreign leaders on Monday. He also spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news conference. He did not say what was discussed.

Sarkozy’s office said the two men spoke for half an hour in their first conversation since Obama took office last week, during which they discussed numerous problems, including the economic crisis and peacemaking in the Middle East.

"President Sarkozy welcomed the courageous moves made by President Obama ... after he took office, especially the announcement about the closure of the Guantanamo camp," Sarkozy’s office said in a statement.

"These measures met the strong expectations of Europe, and France will be ready to help the United States put them into action," it said.

A day after being sworn in, Obama ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo within a year, and he is expected to ask EU states to take in some of the 245 remaining detainees.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday, however, failed to agree on concerted help for the U.S. move.

Sarkozy’s office said France welcomed Obama’s call for a new strategy in Afghanistan, where NATO-led forces are struggling against resurgent Taliban militants.

The two leaders also agreed on the need for resolute action in the face of the global economic crisis and would "work closely together" ahead of the G20 summit in London, it said.

Releasing details of Obama’s conversation with Medvedev, the Kremlin’s press service said the Russian president pledged to improve bilateral relations.

Russian-U.S. relations have been strained in recent months over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, a move Russia strongly opposes, and over Russia’s brief war with the North Caucus republic of Georgia, a close U.S. ally under former President George W. Bush.

"Both sides confirmed their readiness to do everything in their power to restore Russia-American relations to their full potential," Medvedev’s press service said.

The two leaders agreed to meet in person in the near future. (Writing by Ross Colvin; Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington, Crispian Balmer in Paris and Simon Shuster in Moscow; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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