Sarkozy Mulls NATO Return, Pledges Troops for Afghanistan

BUCHAREST, Romania -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy signaled a revolution in French security policy Thursday by announcing that he would decide in the coming year on returning to NATO's military command, which Paris quit in 1966.

He also confirmed that France would reinforce NATO troops in Afghanistan by sending 700 extra soldiers to the volatile east and, in a goodwill gesture to Washington, gave cautious support to U.S. plans for a missile-defense shield in Europe.

Addressing his first NATO summit, Sarkozy said he expected to make a decision on rejoining the integrated military structure after using France's six-month presidency of the European Union from July 1 to build closer European defense integration.

"This opens the door for France to a strong renewal of its relations with NATO," Sarkozy told the leaders, according to a corrected speech text released by his office.

"I am not saying this here before saying it at home. I have endured a debate at home in order to come here and say it."

Symbolizing the change of course, he announced with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that France and Germany would jointly host NATO's 60th anniversary summit next year in the eastern French city of Strasbourg and its German sister town of Kehl, just across the Rhine River.

Meanwhile, it's "Love Me Tender" between the United States and France after President George W. Bush compared French President Nicolas Sarkozy with rock 'n' roll singer Elvis Presley.

Bush told NATO leaders at the summit Thursday that, when Sarkozy visited the United States recently, he was seen as "the latest incarnation of Elvis."

Such an example of "Burning Love" marks a sea change from the "Suspicious Minds" that clouded French-American relations under Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who often seemed to see Washington as "The Devil in Disguise."