US President Barack Obama yesterday praised France as a model ally in a world that must do more to meet common threats, laying on the full flourish of a state visit for President Francois Hollande.
Obama hailed France, an increasingly key partner in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, nuclear proliferation and climate change, as he welcomed Hollande on the White House lawn.
The presidents stood side-by-side framed by the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes and the French tricolor as a 21-gun salute split the air and ranks of troops in dress uniform stood to attention.
"Like generations before us, we now have the task not simply to preserve our enduring alliance but to make it anew for our time," Obama said.
"No one nation can meet today's challenges alone or seize its opportunities.
"More nations must step up and meet the responsibilities of leadership, and that is what the United States and France are doing together."
While disengaging from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington has pressed its European allies to do more to protect their own security in operations like the Libya war - albeit with military and logistical support that only the US as a superpower can provide.
Hollande paid tribute to the sacrifice of US soldiers in the second world war and said the two old allies stand for bedrock principles of universal rights.
"Today France and the United States still stand side by side to make these values prevail," Hollande said.
"We stand together with the United States to address the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons, together to solve the crises faced by the Middle East, together to support Africa's development, and together to fight global warming and climate change."
Earlier, a senior US official praised France for helping quell unrest and extremist violence in parts of Africa.
"The French role has been key to achieving success in Mali and the French role in trying to bring about security and peace in CAR are very, very important," the US top diplomat for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
Hollande was to be without a date at the state dinner last night after turmoil in his love life made global headlines.
Hollande opened his three-day visit to the United States with a rare flight for a foreign leader aboard Air Force One on Monday.
The presidents then toured the Virginia homestead of Thomas Jefferson, seeking to forge a personal bond in richly symbolic surroundings.
The US leader said Jefferson, ambassador to France and the third US president, represented "what's best in America."
"What he also represents is the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States, because he was a Francophile through and through."
Hollande added of the US and France: "We will remain friends forever."