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Released September 3, 2004

FRENCH CONSUL VISITS UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI,
CALLS FOR STRENGTHENING OF RELATIONS WITH UNITED STATES

By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - Despite differences between the United States and France about military intervention in Iraq, the two countries have a long friendship that should be nurtured, said the French consul visiting The University of Southern Mississippi.

Rene-Serge Marty, French consul general and French economic liaison in Atlanta,

spoke on U.S.-French relations and the 60th anniversary of D-Day at the university on Thursday at the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium. The event was sponsored

by the Southern Miss Department of Foreign Languages and Literature.

"I appreciate the help of America that allows me to be free today," Marty said, referring to the United States and allied forces that freed France from Nazi occupation during World War II, beginning with the allied invasion at Normandy, France, on D-Day. "We can't ever forget that."

In addition to historic ties, the two countries have strategic military, economic and cultural links that provide a strong foundation to allow the two nations to repair any damage their relationship suffered over disagreements about Iraq, Marty said.

Although France opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Marty said his government still stands with America in opposition to international terrorism, as evidenced by the presence of French troops in Afghanistan. According to information provided by Marty, approximately 1,500 French troops are in Afghanistan, participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and assisting with training of the new Afghan army.

"We have challenges in the world, and we're working together to face those challenges," Marty said.

France is also the second largest foreign investor in the U.S. ($175 billion), particularly in the aerospace industry, which Marty said also directly impacts Mississippi's economy.

While in Hattiesburg, Marty met with university faculty, staff, students and administrators, along with city administrators and state and local economic development officials. He praised the international study-abroad program at Southern Miss, sponsored through the university's Center for International and Continuing Education, for its important role in advancing cultural exchange, research and economic development between the two nations.

"The (international studies) program here at USM is a real asset to the university. It's very impressive," Marty said.

Susan Steen, director of the Southern Miss CICE, said the university enjoys a positive relationship with the French people. "We have outstanding study-abroad programs in France, and we look forward to continuing to provide our students with excellent academic opportunities there for years to come," she said.

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September 9, 2004 11:18 AM