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While Visiting Bush, Sarkozy Makes a Call to Clinton

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President George Bush at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. (Reuters).

Nicolas Sarkozy, the aggressively pro-American president of France, has spent two days charming President Bush, but he also has his eye out for the end of the current administration. Between a frenetic round of appearances today in Washington, Sarkozy found 15 minutes to place a call to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Sarkozy apparently wanted to get some sense of the lay of the land in the American political campaign, said one French source, who pointed out that Sarkozy has already met with Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

An American source familiar with the conversation said Sarkozy told Clinton he had caught one of the Democratic debates while he was in America over the summer and was impressed with her performance. Sarkozy told Clinton "the only thing harder than running for President of France is running for president of the United States," said this source, friendly to Clinton, who did not want to be quoted publicizing a private conversation

There's no question Sarkozy is thinking ahead beyond the Bush administration. Appearing before a group of business executives at the Four Seasons Hotel on Tuesday, the French president said: "Regardless of who is president -- male or female -- we will work hand in hand together."

Later in the evening, he joked about the campaign as he toasted President Bush, in French, at a black-tie dinner at the White House. "I have no electoral ambitions when it comes to the U.S. even though I know it's a very special day because it's the day on which Americans elect their presidents," he said. "So allow me to celebrate the memory and pay tribute to the long line of American presidents who have always put forward, who have always given priority to the friendship between our two countries."

No word on whether Sarkozy called on Rudy Giuliani, who has frequently cited the French president as an example of what's going right with the world on the campaign trail.

---Michael Abramowitz

By Washington Post editors  |  November 7, 2007; 6:25 PM ET
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