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AMERICAN MORNING

The Obamas Arrive in France; Germany Next on President's European Tour; North Korea Launch Could be Soon; Madonna's Malawian Adoption

Aired April 3, 2009 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, thanks very much for being with us on this Friday, it's the 3rd of April. John Roberts along with Carol Costello filling in for Kiran again this morning. Good morning to you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and happy Friday anyway. We have a lot of news to tell you about including breaking news of the Obama's arrival in France and, of course, they arrived as rock stars much as they did in Britain.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. They've been rock stars so far around Europe at the G-20 meeting. There they are meeting with Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, along with President Nicolas Sarkozy. This is at the Palais Rohan in Strasbourg, where they're going to spend the next few hours. They're also going to Baden-Baden, Germany today. They arrived just a short time ago with all the traditional pomp and circumstance there.

COSTELLO: And there were people. Look at all the people waiting for them. I guess one woman jumped out of her car. She wanted to go up to Barack Obama to kiss him, but I don't think she got very close.

ROBERTS: The security tends to get in the way. Of course, you know, a lot of the bilateral issues that they'll be talking about will certainly sort of circle around the idea of renewal of U.S.-French relations with this new administration and what to do about Afghanistan. Of course, the president is looking for more European involvement in the situation over there. France not exactly eager to come to the table.

And there they are walking the red carpet there on the Palais Rohan so...

COSTELLO: It's interesting. Later on, Barack Obama will hold this town hall meeting with European youth and he'll take questions from the audience. And of course, that probably will be broadcast throughout the world.

ROBERTS: It certainly will be there in France, and we'll be very popular.

And here they are with the national anthem. Listen to a little bit of the sound here.

(PLAYING THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER) Of course, relations between the United States and France during the Bush administration took a bit of a downturn during the presidency of Jacques Chirac. He and President Bush didn't exactly get along together. That's probably a nice way of putting it. COSTELLO: When Sarkozy became president, of course, he started talking pro-American and that helped relations with the United States, even during the Bush administration. And, you know, France loves Barack Obama.

ROBERTS: And Sarkozy as well.

COSTELLO: He is more popular within France than Sarkozy. I think Sarkozy's approval ratings in France are down around 35 to 38 percent. Barack Obama's hovers around 80 percent in France.

ROBERTS: Yes. The first lady of France, Carla Bruni, has got far higher approval ratings than her husband in France.

COSTELLO: I think Michelle Obama probably has even higher approval ratings than her husband in France, if that is possible.

ROBERTS: You know, there's been a lot of talk certainly about this being the return of Jackie Kennedy in Europe with Michelle Obama playing that new part. We saw her with the queen yesterday and the shock throughout Britain and around parts of the world, at least that the two of them actually put their arms around each other. And now, of course, standing there with the first lady of France, that's going to be a picture that will make the cover of a lot of magazines, I'm sure.

COSTELLO: It was the traditional double-kiss between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni Sarkozy. And I didn't see her greet Mr. Sarkozy, but I'm sure there was a hug involved because it's a lot different in France. I mean, they have a different kind of protocol when it comes to greeting one another.

ROBERTS: Yes. If you're just joining us, you're watching new video coming in to us. This happened just a few minutes ago. This is at the Palais Rohan in Strasbourg.

President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy meeting there for the traditional pomp and circumstance welcome. You can see behind Sarkozy, over his right shoulder the first lady of France, Carla Bruni, together with our first lady, Michelle Obama. As the two leaders walk inside to the Palais where they'll hold private meetings on a wide range of issues, the president will also hold, as Carol said, a town hall meeting with French youth today, and then he'll travel to Baden-Baden in Germany for a NATO dinner before heading back to Strasbourg late tonight.

COSTELLO: And I understand they're going shortly in to get the official photo taken. That's what they're doing now.

Suzanne Malveaux is actually there. She's on the phone with us now.

Suzanne, what are you hearing?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Carol, obviously there's a lot of anticipation and excitement around the Obama's arrival here. And one of the things that the president really wants to do initially when he meets with Sarkozy is a meeting of the minds.

We heard a lot about the French president. He was the one who threatened to walk out of the G-20 summit meetings if he didn't get what he wanted. He was also somebody who President Obama pulled aside and tried to help him come with an agreement with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, over these negotiations. Negotiations over trying to make sure there were tough regulations of financial markets and institutions around the world.

As you know, those 20 leaders getting together in London to try to figure out a way to come up with a way of getting out of this global recession. And the president walked away really with mixed reviews for the most part in presses, but he didn't get this kind of big economic stimulus package from these other countries that he was really pushing for but he did get the money, about a trillion dollars or so in funds to help out developing countries get loans and aid and that type of thing.

It will be interesting to see whether or not he -- what kind of relationship that he's already developed with Sarkozy and whether or not he will really be able to push him when it comes to the NATO alliance. The French are really going to have a much more active role when it comes to determining what the NATO alliance role will be in the future. And one of the big, big goals of the president as we know is trying to get more support for the mission in Afghanistan.

COSTELLO: And, Suzanne, we have to mention it -- we have to mention -- you're laughing already, John, I know.

We have to mention Carla Bruni Sarkozy and Michelle Obama standing together. Everybody -- not everybody, but many people wondering what they would be wearing and how the two outfits would compare.

But you know, the interesting thing about these two women is they're highly educated. Both would be very independent, successful women on their own, whether they were married to these two men or not. And they will be speaking privately later this afternoon.

MALVEAUX: Well, everybody is going to be watching how these two women come together and how they get along. It was fascinating to actually watch in London, because there was so much excitement and anticipation over how Michelle Obama was going to be greeted and received by the queen, and the fact that it was Carla Bruni who came before her. And wild reviews when she curtsies the queen.

And so everybody was looking to Michelle to see what she would do and who would one-up the other. But I don't know if there's really so much of a competition as there is so much interest and curiosity about these two women who obviously, their fashion and their education has really made a lot of people turn their heads and wonder what are they going to do next, how are they going to make a splash on the world stage.

COSTELLO: And we're looking at another strong female figure, Hillary Clinton there. You know, just another word about these two first ladies. They're very much into empowerment for women, and that is some of what they plan to do in France, right?

We saw Michelle Obama while she was in Britain talking to that girls school, and she really empowered those girls. They were so excited to see her. She was brought to tears and some of that may happen in France today, right?

MALVEAUX: They're going to another -- it's a cancer institute. They were there before in London, and this is one of those things that, you know, you just can't help but be touched and be moved when you see people who are just so impressed and so honored to be among these women.

And we did see Michelle get quite emotional. She tells the story that we've heard before. And it was a very common story on the campaign but it really seems to have touched a chord, an international chord, especially with these young girls about her own story.

She grew up very, very humble means on the south side of Chicago, really in a very crowded one-bedroom apartment and ended up working very, very hard, very supportive, loving parents and a stable family. But Ivy League education and a professional woman, and now the first lady of the United States.

It really is quite an extraordinary story when you think about it, and a lot of people seem to take to it. And she, too, seems to get quite emotional when she realizes that -- they cry, they laugh when they see her. She's had quite an impact already.

COSTELLO: Yes. And I'm sure the impact will be just as strong in France where she is much admired, not only by Mrs. Sarkozy but many of the French people.

Thanks, Suzanne. Stay with us though.

MALVEAUX: Sure. Thanks, Carol.

ROBERTS: And we want to bring in now Jamie Rubin. He's a former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and he's in this morning watching the proceedings with us.

So your sense of what the relationship is going to be between President Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy here in their first official meetings on French soil.

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: This is from a strategic standpoint a very important session. France is going to rejoin fully the NATO alliance. They tried to have a special arrangement for these last 50 years where they were not part of the military command. Sarkozy is the first French president to return France to NATO's military command structure, and that is, at least in strategic circles, considered a major achievement. Something that will give an opportunity for the United States, Britain and France and Germany to work together militarily in a way they never have before.

And I think the payoff will come and not just here in France, but perhaps in Germany. Will come if President Obama is able to do what people have expected and hoped and wanted, which is to convince German people this is a time for public diplomacy. This is a time where his popularity could have an impact to improve and increase their participation in this NATO operation in Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: Right.

RUBIN: If you're a full member of NATO, NATO can't fail here in Afghanistan. The United States has increased its forces and we really now need more from France, more from Germany.

ROBERTS: Now...

COSTELLO: What specifically are they asking for? Because NATO does have a number of troops, tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. What specifically will President Obama ask for from NATO as far as Afghanistan is concerned?

RUBIN: Well, those troops are often under restriction and they can't go into the most dangerous parts of the country. That's one thing.

Another is some of these troops they have there are only staying through the election. If we're going to win this thing, we're going to have to be there for the long haul. Yes, we've been there for six years, but this is going to be a long commitment and President Obama has been honest enough to say that. And I think France, by rejoining the military structure, I hope will work with us and will convince Germany, which is really the lowest relative participation.

And that's where public opinion really matters. German public opinion is perhaps the most important target in Europe for the United States right now. Not the German government public opinion. They're the ones that are reluctant to send their troops to Afghanistan.

But with a new president doing the right things, no more global rejection of global warming, no more Guantanamo, no more rejection of allies listening and leading, hopefully President Obama can get to the German people and convince them to give him a chance and the new NATO a chance to succeed in Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: Yes. We should point out that France has got about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan operating mostly in the northeastern part of the country. Not down there in Helmand Province where the Brits and U.S. forces are where they're running into so much trouble.

Stay with us, Jamie, because there are a lot more to talk about this morning. COSTELLO: Yes. We're watching, of course, several breaking news stories right now.

The countdown is on for North Korea's suspected rocket launch. New details coming in, plus a blunt message from the State Department.

And breaking news on Madonna's baby bid. A judge has ruled. We'll be live in Malawi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Fourteen minutes after the hour now. We're following breaking news this morning. President Obama and the first lady in Strasbourg, France, to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy and First Lady Carla Bruni. And we've got some pictures in just a couple of moments ago inside the Palais Rohan.

The two leaders sitting down for the official photograph, the whole bilateral talks here for the next hour or so. And, then after that, the two of them will hold a press conference.

The press conference said to be as early as 6:40 Eastern which would be less than a half-an-hour from now. That schedule may be somewhat optimistic, unless of course they hold a press conference before they sit down for the bilateral talks.

COSTELLO: You mean those things don't happen right on schedule?

ROBERTS: On occasion when they're traveling overseas, the schedule does get bumped around a little bit.

Jamie Rubin, the former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration with us this morning with his perspective and analysis on all of this.

So it was an interesting statement that the president made yesterday during his press conference with some 800 reporters. I mean, a rock star is welcome there, even an applause at the end of it, in which he seem to indicate that America's role in the world may be changing somewhat based on the accession of a number of different countries in terms of their economic power. Let's listen to what he said and get you to analyze that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just think in a world that is as complex as it is, that it is very important for us to be able to forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions. If it's just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, you know, that's an easier negotiation. But that's not the world we live in, and it shouldn't be the world that we live in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Jamie, that statement and a statement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Great Britain that the world has changed has led some people to suggest that maybe the days of U.S. privacy are beginning to wane. What do you think?

RUBIN: I don't think it's an either/or. Certainly the world has changed and I think President Obama -- it's very important that he begin to temper and condition the American people and the world for a time when the United States cannot dictate to other countries what's going to happen. But it's also a message to our friends and allies around the world who remember, not very warmly, the times in which President Bush acted as if he could, and would, dictate to our allies and our friends.

So I think President Obama is trying to split the difference and say, yes, we're a leader but we're going to listen. We're going to make joint decisions. Sometimes we might even compromise in order to deal with a world in which China and India are major economic powers, in which Asia in general is surpassing Europe as a trading partner, in which the United States remains the military leader. The United States remains the largest economy but in order to get things done, we're going to have to work with other countries.

And sometimes we're going to have to give to get, and that's something that doesn't come naturally perhaps to Americans in this business. And I think if we can increasingly understand that compromise is not weakness, but compromise is the essence of leadership so that we can lead, but bring others with us, we'll probably do a much better job.

ROBERTS: Yes. That's the word that we heard a lot of yesterday -- leadership. Comes in different forms, I guess.

Jamie, stay with us because a lot to talk about this morning. We appreciate you being here.

COSTELLO: And we want to talk a bit now about Michelle Obama. Before leaving Britain, the first lady was given rock star treatment. Mrs. Obama visited an all-girls school in an impoverished part of London, and the first lady and many students got very emotional.

The students were -- well, they were surprised by her visit. They were told only to expect a special guest. Mrs. Obama told the girls how she came from a blue collar family and they can each create their own destiny, she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn't raised with wealth or resources, or any social standing to speak of. I was raised on the south side of Chicago. That's the real part of Chicago. And I was the product of a working class community.

My father was a city worker all of his life. And my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and she stayed at home to take care of me and my older brother. Neither of them attended university.

My dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the prime of his life. But even as it got harder for him to walk and get dressed in the morning, I saw him struggle more and more. My father never complained about his struggle. He was grateful for what he had. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.

And my brother and I were raised with all that you really need -- love, strong values and the belief that with a good education and a whole lot of hard work, that there was nothing that we could not do.

I am an example of what's possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by the people around them. It is important for the world to know that there are wonderful girls like you all over the world, all over the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And of course, Michelle Obama now in France.

But that was just so moving. And you're struck that Michelle Obama is different from most first ladies because she doesn't really center on one issue. Like for example, Nancy Reagan had the "Just Say No" campaign. She's very much into female empowerment, being a good mother, talking to military families.

How does this model of first lady differ from others?

RUBIN: Well, it differs in the ways you suggest, but I think the real message here is the message that America brings.

Let's face it, the first family, the first couple is the embodiment of the American dream to much of the world. To think that black-Americans climbed the ladder through hard work and won the presidency is a message that resonates so powerfully and so deeply with Europeans, with people all over the world where, let's face it, their systems have a certain class remnants that are part of it.

The number of women and blacks in political leadership is very small. We have now our third secretary of state in a row who is a woman accompanying Michelle Obama there. So these images of the United States, you know, during all the bad times, all the anger perhaps in the post-9/11 period, that idea of the American dream got lost and this first couple embodies it, that you can really make it with hard work.

COSTELLO: Just to interrupt for a second. I was talking to a French journalist yesterday, and he said the French people see Michelle Obama as the true African-American. They don't see Barack Obama in the same way because he had a white mother. And I was just struck by that, that they're really looking to Michelle Obama as this American dream come true rather than Barack Obama.

RUBIN: Well, sometimes those French journalists slice the salami awfully thin. I think most Americans and most French people and most people around the world believe that Barack Obama is a symbol of a black American. And I haven't even mentioned for that part of the world.

Remember, Muslims in France have a very, very, very tough time of it. For a president named Barack Hussein Obama, with his wife to make it to the top is also something that's dramatic in the extreme for the people of France.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Thanks. You'll stick around, right?

RUBIN: Yes.

COSTELLO: OK. Because we have lots of breaking news this morning.

We're expecting to see President Obama and French President Sarkozy come out and talk to reporters shortly. And in other breaking news this morning -- Malawi denies Madonna's adoption request.

It's 22 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're back with the Most News in the Morning. It's 25 and a half minutes after the hour. We're following breaking news this morning.

President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, arrived in Strasbourg, France just a little while ago to meet with president, French President Nicolas Sarkozy. And there's the first lady of France, Carla Bruni, as well. They'll hold bilateral talks for about an hour on a wide range of issues, including France's newly enhanced participation in NATO and its commitment in Afghanistan.

This, also, is ahead of a big NATO summit there in which the president is going to implore the NATO member countries to increase their commitment to Afghanistan as well to try to solve the situation there. And they'll be coming out in about 15 minutes' time, we understand, unless the schedule is running a little bit late to make some brief remarks to the pool. So we'll hear from them in just a little while -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And some surprising news out of Africa this morning. In fact, it's developing news right now.

A judge in Malawi has rejected Madonna's petition to adopt a child. This just happened in the last hour. Again, Madonna's adoption request denied.

Joining us now with more by phone on today's ruling, Deala Nataba (ph), the secretary to the attorney general of Malawi. Welcome.

Are you there? We lost -- again, we're going to try to get the secretary to the attorney general of Malawi back. But we do have Deborah Feyerick. She also has been following this story, our CNN correspondent.

Deborah, are you with me?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Carol. You know, Madonna was not in court when she learned that this adoption would not go through. For the judge, it really came down to two things. First, Malawi has a law that says prospective parents must live in the country for 18 months. That residency requirement was waived when Madonna adopted her first son, David.

Second thing, the judge really believed that the little girl was being well cared for at orphanage so it didn't need to be adopted. And this is what we're learning now. We filed the story earlier. She got so much attention during this entire thing.

Madonna can appeal the ruling to the Malawi Supreme Court, but the country's child welfare minister really was in back of this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): Madonna has been in the African nation of Malawi for almost a week and her presence has created a media circus. Caravanning into court on Monday, she had her sights set on adopting her second Malawian child, 4-year-old Mercy. Mercy has been living in an orphanage since her mother died shortly after giving birth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: How's it feel to be back in Malawi, Madonna?

MADONNA, SINGER: Amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Can you tell us why you're adopting again, Madonna?

MADONNA: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Can you understand people's reservations about it, seriously?

MADONNA: No. It's none of their business.

FEYERICK: It may not be their business but people everywhere are weighing in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking at the current scenario and our worry, and this is a strong worry, is that this process is merely amounting to child kidnapping. Or we have a scenario which calls all of us to redefine the boundaries between child adoption and child kidnapping.

FEYERICK: Not all of Malawi is sour on the adoption though. Radio shows have been flooded with callers supporting Madonna, and some Malawian officials support her too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you project 20 years from now, where will the child be if the child is left in the orphanage where it is, or if it gets a chance to get an education with Madonna?

FEYERICK: It's not the first time Madonna has faced adversity over an international adoption. She adopted her son, David Banda, from Malawi in 2006, and came under fire from critics who claim that she used her fame and fortune to bend the rules. The adoption process is never fast. In the U.S., adoptions can take up to two years. That's one reason many Americans wind up looking overseas. In 2007, Americans adopted more than 17,000 foreign children.

Madonna isn't the first celebrity to make headlines through adoption. Angelina Jolie's family includes adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: And of course for some reason, Angelina Jolie never has a problem when she goes to adopt a child, at least not that people know of. Madonna can appeal this ruling to Malawi's Supreme Court. The country's child welfare minister did endorse Madonna's adoption application saying there are so many orphans that if there's one less mouth to feed, that's good for the country -- Carol, John.

COSTELLO: But you know I was going to ask you that, because part of the ruling that I find the most strange is that the judge ruled that the child is well cared for in this orphanage. Wouldn't it be better if the child were adopted out? Or is the intent here to have somebody from Africa adopt the child over the American -- rich American, Madonna?

FEYERICK: It's what the message sends. Do you send your -- do you admit that you can send your children out to be better cared for elsewhere? The fact that the child is in the orphanage -- she does have family members, whether those family members take the child now is still up for debate.

But, boy, the amount of outrage people felt with Madonna coming in to, quote-unquote, "take" one of their children, she really had sort of a tough case to prove.

COSTELLO: Well, it's clear that she did, huh? OK. But I'm sure it's not over.

Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much for following this story for us.

ROBERTS: Coming in now at 31 minutes after the hour, and get you caught up in where we are today in terms of breaking news.

President Obama and the first lady arriving in Strasbourg, France within the hour, and they're meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as the first lady, Carla Bruni. There will be bilateral meetings between the two presidents on a wide range of issues, including France's newly-enhanced participation in NATO.

There's the pictures of the traditional double-kiss there. Michelle Obama is meeting together with Carla Bruni; the presidents in the background.

The president and the president of France will also address the media, probably about 10, 15 minutes for now. And then he'll go off of the rest of the schedule today, goes to Baden-Baden, Germany for the NATO leaders meeting.

And then, back to the Strasbourg for the NATO summit where he'll imploring NATO members to participate to a greater degree and the fight in Afghanistan, though it's unlikely that he's going to get much more of a commitment from them.

COSTELLO: We'll see. Of course, you know, the president was recently in Britain for the G-20 summit where he met with a number of world leaders, including the Saudi king.

We want to bring another guest to our set right now, Craig Unger. He is the author of "The House of Bush, House of Saud." And he joins us now.

Thanks for being here so early in the morning.

CRAIG UNGER, AUTHOR, "HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD": Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: I'd like to you show you a picture first off, because some conservative American columnists are complaining about the way President Obama greeted the king of Saudi Arabia. So let's put up that picture. Some say it appears that the president is groveling towards King Abdullah.

Can you kind of put this in perspective for us?

UNGER: Well, I wouldn't read too much into the picture, especially from a still. What I think the subtext here is going to be Israel, and that will always be a subtext when you see Obama talking to the Saudis.

If you recall, just before he became president, Prince Turki, the Saudi ambassador to the United States had a piece in the "Financial Times" criticizing what he called the sickening legacy of the Bush administration with regard to the Middle East. And immediately afterwards, Obama gave his first very interview as president to al- Arabiya, which is owned by the Saudis, and he spoke rather warmly about the Arab Peace Initiative.

So, I think it's in that context that you see the criticism that this will -- is obviously a hot button issue, Obama will be criticized by the Israeli right, by Americans conservatives and neoconservatives on this.

ROBERTS: There is no question that the Prince Turki Al-Faisal is an outspoken member of the Saudi royal family. But in the overall, do you think that there will be any change in U.S.-Saudi relations here?

UNGER: Well, I think there will. And the question is, Obama has spoken warmly about the Arab Peace Initiative. Initially, he said he may not agree with every aspect of the Arab proposal but he called it courageous. And this is exactly where he will be attacked by American conservatives and by the Israeli right. If he actually lives up to those words and is forceful in trying to promote the Arab -- the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. COSTELLO: You know, another area I don't think many Americans understand that Saudi Arabia can help America is Afghanistan. Tell us how Saudi Arabia might be able to help the United States with its problems there.

UNGER: Well, I think almost everything in the Middle East is interrelated. And you've seen recently a warming of relationships potentially at least with Iran. So Richard Holbrooke had met briefly with an Iranian official, one of the first contacts, and Afghanistan is an area in which Iran and the United States have some shared interest.

But Iran is also a regional rival of Saudi Arabia. You'll see that -- that sort of triangulation go on where America's going to want to potentially work with Iran in Afghanistan, but without jeopardizing its relationship with the Saudis.

COSTELLO: That's a -- that's a tough task, isn't it?

ROBERTS: Yes.

COSTELLO: Craig Unger, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

UNGER: Thank you.

ROBERTS: For more breaking news this morning, North Korea could be just hours away from a controversial missile launch. Japan is on high alert, and U.S. officials are demanding that North Korea back down. What could the consequences be if the secretive state refuses?

And, we're expecting to see President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy come out and talk briefly with reporters -- that should happen in the next few minutes.

It's 35 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

Let's head back out to France to show you some pictures. The Obamas have hit France with all the fanfare. In fact, thousands have lined the streets hoping for a glimpse of the president and the first lady, and they got one. In fact, some people were trying to jump out of their cars, trying to get close to the president. They were not successful.

But as you can see, the Obamas greeted the French president and the French first lady -- this was all the ceremony at the palace in France. They went in for a photo-op and, of course, will be meeting -- I think they're going to -- they're going to hop out and talk to reporters for just a bit, but it's not going to be an official-like press conference where it's going to be long.

ROBERTS: The official schedule says "Brief remarks to the pool." This is the tight pool, a small group of people that travels very closely with the president. It could include one or two questions thrown out there. So, it could be anywhere from a minute to five minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: The more interesting thing will be this town hall meeting that the president's going to hold at this sports arena with European youth. He's going to take questions from the audience. That will probably happen 7:30 Eastern Time. And, of course, we'll take that live. It will be interesting to see what questions European youth will be throwing at the president.

ROBERTS: Yes. And yesterday at the press conference, there were some 800 journalists who attended and they applauded...

COSTELLO: That was weird (ph).

ROBERTS: ... in the end of it. Not everyone applauded, of course. You can imagine the American reporters...

COSTELLO: Hopefully the American correspondents.

ROBERTS: ... and British correspondents didn't but some of the world press did.

Well, in the coming hours, all eyes are on North Korea. The secretive state is making preparations to launch what it calls a satellite. The U.S., Japan and South Korea all say it's a long-range missile test. State Department officials are demanding that Pyongyang stop the launch.

For more, let's bring in Jim Walsh this morning. He's an international security analyst and research associate with MIT.

Jim, it's good to see you this morning. Can you explain, first of all, what is it that we're looking at on the launch pad here? It's a Taepodong-2 missile. Is it a satellite? Is it a ballistic missile? Does it matter?

JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, I think it's both. I mean how do you get a satellite into space? And I think the latest technical assessment is that it is likely that what's on top of that missile is a satellite. But the way you get satellites into space is you put them on top of a rocket and you shoot it into space. A rocket that can carry a satellite is also a rocket, in theory, that can carry a warhead.

But remember, North Korea's had only two of these tests, two previous tests over the past 10 years, both of those tests failed. So, there's a big difference between a missile test and having a really workable, reliable missile.

ROBERTS: Now, when we talk about the -- you say it's probably a satellite that's on it. I mean, what kind of technology are we talking about? Are we talking about, you know, these incredible satellites that we put up in the sky? Are we talking something more along the lines of Sputnik?

WALSH: No. It's going to be something in between, but definitely on the low end. Remember, in 1998, when the North Koreans supposedly had their first satellite launch, they claimed that they put a satellite into space but no one could find it. So, if they are able to be successful over the next several days, we will be able to determine that through our own technical means, and we'll be able to have a pretty good idea of what it could do.

ROBERTS: Now...

WALSH: But I would not have high expectations.

ROBERTS: Now, you mentioned, Jim, that the last two missile tests didn't turn out too well. In fact, the last one in July, I guess, in 2006, the rocket failed after some 40 seconds. What might North Korea learn about missile technology from this launch?

WALSH: Well, it depends on whether it's successful or not, how long it extends. But, John, I think the key here is while we focus on the military and technical aspects, this is really a political act with political intentions, and possibly political consequences. North Korea has all sorts of reasons, foreign and domestic, to want to do this. South Korea plans a space launch later in July. They want to be the first one on top of the mountain.

They also think that perhaps this will create a better bargaining position for them, that it will divide the U.S. allies. You know, Japan's going to be very upset about this; China, not so much.

So, they're really -- this is really a political act more than a military act. Although I expect they will learn something from this test. You always learn something.

ROBERTS: Right. Good perspective on that this morning. Jim Walsh, thanks for coming in this morning. It's good to see you.

WALSH: Thank you, John.

COSTELLO: President Obama in France this morning for talks with the French president. We're expecting him live any minute now and we're expecting him to take a few questions from the press. We don't know but we hope so.

As we've seen through the years though, the French and Americans have often been at odds with each other -- a look at that love-hate relationship.

It's 42 minutes pass the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, TV TALK SHOW HOST: President Obama met Queen Elizabeth. He and Michelle went to Buckingham Palace. It was very nice. It was cool. He gave the queen an iPod with 40 Broadway songs loaded on it. Somebody should told Barack, not all queens like show tunes. Because that's ...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Jimmy Fallon there with his thoughts on the president -- that the president gave to the queen yesterday an iPod loaded with all kinds of music and videos.

Well, you can see that it's a country that Americans sometimes love to hate. Remember freedom fries or some called them traitor taters or that headline and cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Right now, President Obama and French President Sarkozy seem pretty chummy. But can we expect this era of global goodwill to last?

Carol Costello has been looking at that angle.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: Good question.

ROBERTS: What do you find?

COSTELLO: I mean, you know, we saw them in France this morning. They certainly looked chummy, right?

ROBERTS: They did.

COSTELLO: But at the G-20 summit in London, President Sarkozy threatened to walk out of the meetings if he didn't get what he wanted. It kind of brought up memories of all the bad feelings we used to have.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It was a reminder of the bad old days.

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Rename the French fries, the "Freedom Fries" because of our disappointment with the French.

COSTELLO: Disappointment for opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, back when Americans took the French out of fry.

And now, there is Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president threatening to leave the table if the United States does not agree, in part, to a global watchdog who can regulate business even within the United States.

(on camera): What if Mr. Sarkozy really did say, "See you, I'm out of here"?

ED ROLLINS, GOP STRATEGIST, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If he left, he left. And if Barack Obama was given credit for that, he'd go up 10 points in approval ratings.

COSTELLO (voice-over): A sign there still tension between Americans and the French, not that it hasn't gotten better.

The latest Gallup Poll shows 69 percent of Americans now have a favorable view of that country. But we can change your opinion on a dime if the French do something like try regulate U.S. businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a bit immature I think on his part. He should come with an open mind to this G-20 Summit before he says I'm going to walk out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe it is not the best way for Sarkozy to be approaching the situation to threaten to walk out.

COSTELLO: Of course, if you're the French president, it's a whole different story. Mr. Sarkozy is dealing with massive protests. The laid off French workers so unhappy, they're taking it out on their bosses by holding them hostage. This one held for more than a day and released unharmed.

BENOIT SARAT, CORRESPONDENT, FRENCH TELEVISION: Many French people started to believe that Nicolas Sarkozy was promising too much and didn't get the things done. And that has been part of the problem for Nicolas Sarkozy.

COSTELLO: And some say that, coupled with Sarkozy's low approval ratings, force him to play at the home crowd by playing the swashbuckling strong man who takes on the G-20 and plays hardball to win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: OK. So we know the G-20 summit is over and President Sarkozy got some of what he wanted. He certainly didn't get this global cup, he got more of a global board of directors which is -- it's good because it can encourage good behavior, but that's about it.

ROBERTS: The promise of action but not necessarily the mechanisms.

COSTELLO: But at least they talked.

ROBERTS: At least they talk. That's a good thing.

All right, we're watching the developments in Strasbourg, France this morning. French President Nicolas Sarkozy sitting down with our president, there they are in the arrival ceremony. They're expected to come out and make brief remarks to the pool in just a few minutes.

Jamie Rubin is here with us this morning to break it all down for you. We'll have all of that for you when we come back.

It's 48 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: As you can see, this beautiful palace in France, Mr. and Mrs. Obama are there, along with the president of France and his wife, Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

And yes, the president and President Sarkozy greeted one another and the first ladies did, too. They greeted each other with a double- kiss to the cheek. Shortly after this took place, Mr. Obama and Mr. Sarkozy went inside to have their picture taken.

So, nothing of substance has really happened yet. And Jamie Rubin is with us right now to tell us what the president expects to come of this meeting in France.

RUBIN: Well, I think this is an important moment in U.S.-French relations after 50 years. France is going to rejoin fully the NATO alliance's military command. It's an alliance they've traditionally not been part of because of American leadership. De Gaulle took them out of the military command in an active peak 40-some years ago.

And so, Sarkozy's return is both symbolic in a sense that all the pieces of Europe are now put together for military purposes, but it's also substantive. I think for the United States, with France leading, playing a leading role, we now have a chance to get our European allies perhaps to do more in the military field, because France does have a large army. It's one of the larger armies in Europe and they're willing to use it from time to time.

So, I think if Sarkozy and President Obama can gang up on Angela Merkel next door, we can get to the heart of the problem. Right now, the heart of the problem for America in this area is that Germany has not seen fit to provide fully the number and types of troops that we need to succeed in Afghanistan. It's sort of a hangover from the Bush years from their passivism as a population.

But perhaps now with this summit and all of the re-integration of the United States and Europe, the German people won't see participation as such a negative.

ROBERTS: Right.

RUBIN: So, that's the big, big challenge ahead.

ROBERTS: A tough mountain to climb. Jamie, thanks so much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it.

RUBIN: Thanks.

ROBERTS: We'll turn things over to your better half coming up here next hour here, but it's great to see you this morning. Thanks very much.

RUBIN: (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTS: We're watching the breaking news this morning, the meeting between President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at Palais de Rohan in Strasbourg, France. We're expecting them to come out and make remarks in the next little while. They seem to be running a little bit behind schedule but we've got it all for you. Do not take it off of CNN.

Fifty-three minutes after the hour -- we'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Look what the wind blew in, enough energy to light up Times Square. Billboards powered by wind.

MICHAEL FORESE, CONEDISON SOLUTIONS: They're all being powered by 100 percent wind energy.

WOLF: Even though only 3 percent of the nation's power grid is generated by wind power, thanks to a creative solution, companies today can support wind power by buying a portion of that 3 percent in the form of renewable energy certificates. In this case, companies like Coca-Cola pay extra for electricity each month and purchase enough certificates to power their billboards.

FORESE: When someone chooses wind energy, they increase the demand for wind energy and they reduce down the requirement for other non-renewable energies.

WOLF: This sign is called an "eco board." It generates its own wind with an experimental multi-million dollar power plant right on the billboard.

RON POTESKY, RICOH AMERICAS: These are the first of their kind, vertical access wind turbine.

WOLF: Potesky says that 10-mile-an-hour winds a few hours a day generates enough power to keep the lights on day and night, 64 solar panels provide additional power. But developers admit that Ricoh sign could go in the dark if the wind calms and the clouds move in.

POTESKY: If you have a non-mission critical advertising billboard, going dark is OK. We think that's actually kind of cool.

WOLF: Cool indeed, that this powerful force of nature is getting its due with its name in lights.

Reynolds Wolf, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Fifty-eight minutes now after the hour.

President Obama and the first lady are in Strasbourg, France, meeting with the French president and French first lady. He's also got some NATO meetings that will be taken place in the next couple of days.

There they are at the Palais de Rohan, walking up the red carpet.

We swapped Jaime Rubin for Christiane Amanpour this morning. She's with us.

You know what, we -- some -- it's just coming up at the hour of the hour. Let's take a moment and look at the president's popularity in Europe. And yesterday, there was this extraordinary press conference after the G-20. Eight hundred journalists there.

Let's listen to one of the exchanges here and we get you to talk about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. OBAMA: You know, we're not doing bidding here.

(LAUGHTER)

B. OBAMA: Come on. But I also want to make sure that I'm not showing gender bias.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Everybody had their hands up there. Everybody wanted to get a question in. And there was a line up outside the room, Christiane, to get into this press conference. And at the end, some of the journalists applauded. I've never seen anything like it.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what? I've never seen the applause. I kept wondering are they the western journalists, are they the Chinese journalist or who -- who are used to applauding.

But I think what's interesting is Obama himself referred to his election and his early decisions hopefully raising America's standing in the world, and he said polls are showing that people around the world are now more hopeful about American leadership.

ROBERTS: Al right. Well, stick around with us for the next hour because we got a lot to talk about. Christiane, good to have you here.

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