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Americans Cheer Sarkozy's Election in France

Many Americans cheered the victory of Nicolas Sarkozy in France's presidential election, saying they welcomed the conservative's friendlier stance towards the United States after years of strained relations.

"I'm happy we have someone who is more interested in finding common ground," said Todd Uterstaedt, 38, an executive coach, as he sipped coffee on Monday outside Starbucks in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"We're capitalists, they tend toward socialism, so I think there'll always be differences ... but his election might soften some of the surface rhetoric I hear about 'french fries' versus 'American fries,' or whatever."

France's high-profile opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 sparked a wave of anti-French sentiment in America, and barbs about the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" have persisted along with the war.

Indignant Americans once insisted menus -- including those at the U.S. Capitol -- be changed to offer "freedom fries" or simply "fries," instead of french fries.

Ordinary Americans and editorialists alike said Sarkozy's victory on Sunday could be the start of happier ties.

"The accession of Nicolas Sarkozy can only be good for America," the New York Sun wrote in an editorial, adding that French voters had cast a ballot for "none other than George W. Bush himself" in their election of Sarkozy.

An April opinion poll found 35% of Americans had a positive view of the French. The poll, for the International Herald Tribune daily and France 24 TV station, showed 74% of Americans said whoever won the election should try to improve relations with the United States.

Some 41% of French agreed, but 20% believed Paris should be even more distant with Washington.

The White House said Bush spoke to Sarkozy by phone on Sunday and hoped for close relations.

"We know that there have been areas of disagreement but on the other hand there are certainly real opportunities to work together on a broad range of issues," White House spokesman Tony Snow said. He said Bush would go on working closely with President Jacques Chirac, who was not a candidate and remains in office until Sarkozy takes over on May 16.

Still, Michael Loriaux, a political science professor at Northwestern University, said that while Sarkozy took a warmer tone towards America during the campaign, he was skeptical the two countries would suddenly see eye-to-eye on foreign policy.

"We can foresee the time when there will be new diplomatic disputes between the French and the United States -- notably on the Middle East ... at which time I don't know why we wouldn't expect more name-calling," Loriaux said.

For now, Americans seemed ready to bury the hatchet.

"France has needed someone who is pro-American for a while, because we've done so much for them in the past," said Mikie Survant, 52, a retail manager.

"Friends always make up, and we've been friends for a long time."