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Powell: France has annoyed me

Powell (right) and French counterpart de Villepin often haven't seen eye to eye.
Powell (right) and French counterpart de Villepin often haven't seen eye to eye.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Calling the French a proud people with "strong views," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted France has annoyed him at times -- and he has been just as annoying to them.

"They have been with us through thick and thin. They were with us when we fought for our independence 229 years ago. But we have had disagreements with the French," he told Philadelphia's WPHT radio on Wednesday.

"The French are a proud people that have strong views about things, and from time to time, yes, they have annoyed me. And I'm sure from time to time, I have annoyed them."

Asked if he had ever told them that, he said, "Oh yes, yeah."

Many conservatives were outraged last year when France voiced strong opposition to war with Iraq.

At the height of the debate, a U.S. Capitol cafeteria renamed French fries "freedom fries," and some conservatives across the nation urged a boycott of French wines.

Powell said he and his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, have the "most candid and direct conversations about what we do that annoys the other."

He said in the run-up to war, the French made clear their position, as did he.

"I said, 'Dominique, I understand your position and I know that you are strongly against this, but let me give you our position, and that is if the U.N. doesn't deal with this, President Bush will.' And we did."

He added that France, Germany and other nations that opposed the war are now offering to help in the reconstruction of Iraq to "give the Iraqi people a better life."

"We all are united in that regard," Powell said.

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