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
"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,"
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.