French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to start a dialogue with his countrymen about their national identity, a subject that would not have raised eyebrows 50 years ago but has engendered a fierce political debate today.

Martine Aubry, leader of the opposition Socialist party, contends Sarkozy is just playing electoral politics by appealing to his conservative base in advance of next year's regional elections.

But Sarkozy showed he is serious during a 45-minute speech on Thursday that Elysee Palace had billed as being dedicated solely to farm subsidies and related issues.

What's more, he demonstrated that he is willing to wage a head-on battle against the forces of political correctness.

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