French want president to keep distance from US

Three-quarters of French poll respondents want their next president to keep a distance from US foreign policy, according to a survey published Wednesday. Four months before France's presidential elections, 75 percent of those polled by the Ifop organization said Paris' foreign policy should be distinct from Washington's, while just 25 percent said the allies' stances should be similar. The poll did not ask about specific US policies. French President Jacques Chirac led international opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, causing a serious rift in French-American relations. The ties have gradually improved in recent years. French voters are increasingly concerned with their nation's declining global clout. In the Ifop poll, 14 percent of respondents said the next president's foreign policy priority should be defending France's cultural distinctiveness. The poll could be a signal to the conservative front-runner, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is unabashedly pro-American. He and Socialist Segolene Royal are in a tight race at the head of the pack ahead of the April and May elections.