PARIS — David Cameron on Friday wished his "friend" President Nicolas Sarkozy of France well in his re-election battle, dismissing recent disagreements about Europe.
"We'll be following your fortunes in the weeks to come on the campaign trail and, as I said, I wish you luck," Cameron told Sarkozy at a joint news conference in Paris less than 10 weeks before the French poll.
Cameron's backing of Sarkozy's candidacy was the second informal endorsement from a major centre-right leader in Europe after German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced support for him earlier this month.
Asked if he would campaign on Sarkozy's behalf, Cameron joked that it might not help convince the French electorate, but said the summit gave him "a chance to wish my friend well in the battle he has ahead."
"I admire Nicolas Sarkozy's courage and his leadership and I think he has achieved great things for his country. Clearly the future is an issue for the French people, but I make those points, I believe those points.
"I'm not quite sure if I made them on the campaign trail they would have the effect that my friend would want them to have," he said, as Sarkozy smiled.
"David Cameron's support gives me pleasure. If there are more people saying nice things about me than bad at the moment, that doesn't bother me," Sarkozy replied, shortly before the pair headed off for a working lunch.
Sarkozy will seek a second five-year mandate in the first round of France's presidential election on April 22, but he trails Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the opinion polls.
Cameron and Sarkozy have clashed publicly over how to handle the eurozone sovereign debt crisis and about the French leader's plan for a financial transaction tax, which the British premier recently branded "madness".
But both men are centre-right conservatives opposed to Hollande's attacks on financial markets and on their austerity programmes, and they bonded over joint military and diplomatic initiatives in Libya and the Middle East.
"We do sometimes have disagreements on European issues," Cameron admitted, but insisted that the pair has "a relationship that is easily strong enough to survive the odd bump or bounce when we sometimes have a disagreement."
Cameron also hailed defence cooperation between the two countries, and said that on this and on the diplomatic front he did not think the pair had worked more closely together since World War II.
In particular, the British team were keen to talk up a civil nuclear deal which will see British engineering firm Rolls-Royce team up with French nuclear energy giant Areva to build a new reactor in southern England.
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