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Macron Makes France's Mark             05/28 10:49

   TAORMINA, Italy (AP) -- Within days of taking the French presidency, 
Emmanuel Macron faced a string of diplomatic tests -- pushing the Paris climate 
deal on a skeptical Donald Trump, rallying European allies to do more to fight 
Syria's extremists, and now hosting Vladimir Putin.

   Europe has a lot riding on Macron's diplomatic performance. So far, it 
appears, so good.

   Macron struck up an unusually chummy rapport in his first meetings with 
Trump, winning a handshake contest and the U.S. leader's cellphone number, 
despite their stark political differences.

   German Chancellor Angela Merkel, too, is warming to the energetic Macron -- 
they've already met three times in the two weeks since Macron took office -- 
and is pinning hopes on him to boost Europe's economy and unity.

   Macron is eager to dispel doubts about his presidential stature that have 
dogged him since he launched a wild-card presidential bid just six months ago.

   During his very first days in office, he visited Berlin and a French 
military base in Mali, where the country's troops are fighting Islamic 
extremism. Then over this past week, he cemented his status as a new global 
player at a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven summit in Italy.

   While he has never held elected office before, Macron was helped by his 
comfortable English and backstage knowledge of international summits gained as 
top economic adviser to predecessor Francois Hollande from 2012 to 2014, then 
as his economy minister.

   Beyond the important issues Macron's tackling, his body language drew the 
most public attention on his summit outings.

   The most symbolic image was his handshake with Trump at their first meeting, 
in Brussels. After some friendly chatter, the two gripped each other's hands so 
tightly before the cameras that their jaws seemed to clench. It looked like 
Trump was ready to pull away first, but Macron wasn't quite ready to disengage.

   Macron later described the handshake as "a moment of truth" --- designed to 
show that he's no pushover.

   "My handshake with him, it wasn't innocent," Macron told newspaper Le 
Journal du Dimanche, in comments confirmed by his office. "One must show that 
you won't make small concessions, even symbolic ones."

   The next day at the G-7 summit in Sicily, Macron attracted attention for his 
friendly interactions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

   At their bilateral meeting, Macron, 39, and Trudeau, 45, went on a terrace 
overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, were they posed for photographers, 
surrounded by flowers.

   Macron showed proximity with other leaders, joking and making a gentle tap 
on the arm a habit. He often paid special attention to Merkel --as if making 
efforts to embody the French-German friendship. Germany is hoping Macron 
jumpstarts France's economy, a pillar of European unity and the shared euro 

   British Prime Minister Theresa May was visibly touched when Macron addressed 
his condolences in English following the Manchester attack that killed 22 

   "We were very shocked, because ... we know how this can hurt the people of 
your country, but more generally for Europe. Because they attack our young, and 
very young people," Macron told her.

   Both leaders pushed to get a separate, unanimous statement on the fight 
against terrorism by the G-7. The text is appealing to internet providers and 
social media companies to more actively fight extremism, an issue widely 
promoted by Macron during his presidential campaign.

   Macron has promised to discuss the Syria crisis on Monday with Russia's 
president when he visits the royal palace in Versailles. That may be Macron's 
toughest test so far, amid tensions over Moscow's role in fighting in Syria and 
Ukraine, and after Putin openly supported rival French candidate Marine Le Pen 
of the far-right National Front party.

   "Russia invaded Ukraine," Macron told a news conference Saturday. 

   On Syria, where extremists plotted attacks against France and where Europe's 
migrant crisis began, he said, "I said at the G-7 table that I don't regard it 
as a collective victory that on Syria ... not one of us was capable of being 
around the table. You have Russia, Iran and Turkey. That is a defeat."

   "So we must talk to Russia to change the framework for getting out of the 
military crisis in Syria and to build a much more collective and integrated 
inclusive political solution," he added.

   The G-7 called on Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and said they 
"stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on 
Russia should its actions so require."

   Macron promised he will have a "demanding dialogue with Russia, but it means 
having a dialogue."

   At the end of the G-7, Macron appeared to soften his stance on the climate 
talks, the most problematic issue between the U.S. and the six other nations. 
Macron showed unfailing optimism.

   While Merkel called the G-7 climate talks "very difficult, if not to say, 
very unsatisfactory," Macron said "I think Mr. Trump is someone who is 
pragmatic and so I have good hopes that having considered the arguments put 
forward by various people and his country's own interest he will confirm his 
commitment (to the accord) -- in his own time."

   "I saw someone who listens and who is willing to work," he added. "For Mr. 
Trump and myself, it was a first experience. I think he saw the purpose of 
these multilateral discussions."

   Optimism, and an almost constant smile on the face, are part of Macron's 
strategy French voters are now getting used to.

   The French leader was especially careful to avoid diplomatic or political 
faux-pas only two weeks before crucial legislative elections. Macron needs to 
get a majority at France's lower house of parliament to fully implement his 
pro-European, pro-free market agenda.

   Meanwhile, his wife Brigitte Macron experienced the role of first lady, 
symbolizing easygoing French chic, and at ease with other spouses, especially 
with Melania Trump with whom she was seen chatting.


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