Sarkozy tells Obama Netanyahu is a "liar"

PARIS Tue Nov 8, 2011 11:08pm IST

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures during a news conference on the second day of the G20 Summit in Cannes November 4, 2011. Sarkozy branded Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu ''a liar'' in a private conversation with US President Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week's G20 summit in Cannes. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures during a news conference on the second day of the G20 Summit in Cannes November 4, 2011. Sarkozy branded Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu ''a liar'' in a private conversation with US President Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week's G20 summit in Cannes.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

Related Topics

A statue of Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, is carried in a taxi to a place of worship on the first day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Ganesh Chaturthi Festival

During Ganesh Chaturthi idols will be taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, and will be immersed in a river or the sea in accordance with Hindu faith.  Slideshow 

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a liar" in a private conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week's G20 summit in Cannes.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.

"You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.

The technical gaffe is likely to cause great embarrassment to all three leaders as they look to work together to intensify international pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

The conversation was not initially reported by the small group of journalists who overheard it because it was considered private and off-the-record. But the comments have since emerged on French websites and can be confirmed by Reuters.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the conversation when asked by reporters traveling with Obama to an event in Philadelphia.

Obama's apparent failure to defend Netanyahu is likely to be leapt on by his Republican foes, who are looking to unseat him in next year's presidential election and have portrayed him as hostile to Israel, Washington's closest ally in the region.

Pushing Netanyahu risks alienating Israel's strong base of support among the U.S. public and in Congress.

Netanyahu's office declined immediate comment.

Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship as U.S. efforts to broker a Middle East peace deal have foundered, with the U.S. president openly criticising Jewish settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It was unclear why exactly Sarkozy had criticised Netanyahu. However, European diplomats have largely blamed Israel for the breakdown in peace talks and have expressed anger over Netanyahu's approval of large-scale settlement building.

PALESTINIAN WORRIES

During their bilateral meeting on Nov. 3, on the sidelines of the Cannes summit, Obama criticised Sarkozy's surprise decision to vote in favour of a Palestinian request for membership of the U.N. cultural heritage agency UNESCO.

"I didn't appreciate your way of presenting things over the Palestinian membership of UNESCO. It weakened us. You should have consulted us, but that is now behind us," Obama was quoted as saying.

The Oct. 31 UNESCO vote marked a success for the Palestinians in their broader thrust for recognition as a sovereign state in the U.N. system -- a unilateral initiative fiercely opposed by Israel and the United States.

As a result of the vote, Washington was compelled to halt its funding for UNESCO under a 1990s law that prohibits Washington from giving money to any U.N. body that grants membership to groups that do not have full, legal statehood.

Obama told Sarkozy that he was worried about the impact if Washington had to pull funding from other U.N. bodies such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation and the IAEA nuclear watchdog if the Palestinians gained membership there.

"You have to pass the message along to the Palestinians that they must stop this immediately," Obama said.

The day the conversation took place, the Palestinians announced that they would not seek membership of any other U.N. agency.

Sarkozy confirmed that France would not take any unilateral decisions when the U.N. Security Council discusses a Palestinian membership request, a debate expected later this month.

"I am with you on that," Obama replied.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ukraine Crisis

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Political Crisis

Political Crisis

Pakistan PM still surrounded by protesters after deadly clashes.  Full Article 

Reuters Insight

Reuters Insight

As Islamic State fighters begin to blend in, defeating them no easy matter.  Full Article 

Building Collapse

Building Collapse

Explosion fells building outside Paris, killing at least 2.  Full Article 

A Coup

A Coup

Lesotho's deputy premier in charge after PM flees "coup".  Full Article 

Warning Level

Warning Level

Iceland cuts aviation alert to orange, no ash from new eruption.  Full Article 

Interim Cabinet

Interim Cabinet

Thai ruler Prayuth gives top cabinet posts to junta inner circle.  Full Article 

For Democracy

For Democracy

Hong Kong braces for protests as China rules out full democracy.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage