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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trade, Aid, Bombs Top Chirac Agenda in U.S.

PARIS -- French President Jacques Chirac left for Washington on Wednesday to lobby against foreign aid cuts, boost the European image and patch up relations after his hotly disputed nuclear test blasts.


Traveling with his foreign and defense ministers, Chirac is on the first state visit by a French president in 12 years. He will meet President Bill Clinton, address Congress and speak to some 400 business leaders in Chicago.


While Chirac on Monday swore off any more nuclear tests, he came under fire in Congress after last weekend's sixth blast since September. Washington has repeatedly said it "regretted" the tests.


Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna denied the president's announcement Monday to halt further tests was timed with the upcoming U.S. visit in mind.


Chirac will now concentrate on pressing his argument for a ban on all nuclear testing, Colonna said.


The French leader is also concerned that the budget battle between Clinton and congressional Republicans will result in cuts in U.S. foreign aid to developing countries.


Chirac will argue that cutting aid is a mistake because that funding helps prepare fledgling nations to be future markets, said a source, speaking on condition of anonymity.


A compromise budget bill passed last week by the House would impose deep foreign aid cuts, setting the aid portion of the budget this year at $12.1 billion, 11 percent lower than last year's level and 19 percent below the budget Clinton has proposed.


In comparison, Colonna said, the 15-nation European Union provides more than $30 billion in foreign aid.


Also on the talks agenda are trade relations, the Group of Seven summit in Lyon in June, Haiti and the reconstruction of Bosnia, she said.