Sarkozy 'explains' Bibi insult

By Jennifer Lipman, December 1, 2011

The French president has attempted to smooth the waters after his comments criticising Israel's Prime Minister were overheard by reporters.

Earlier this month, Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama were left red-faced when it emerged that the former had complained that Benjamin Netanyahu was a liar.

During the private conversation at a G20 summit in Cannes, Mr Sarkozy said he could not "stand" Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Obama was heard to reply: "You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day."

Mr Sarkozy told a group of French Jewish communal leaders from the umbrella group CRIF last week that his remarks had been taken out of context and that there were "certain explanations" for them. He maintained that he had a "strong and long" relationship with Mr Netanyahu. He said he was committed to moving beyond the misunderstanding.

Francis Kalifat, the treasurer of CRIF, said Mr Sarkozy had "responded to a lot of our concerns".

"The president reaffirmed his friendship and support for the state of Israel from the very beginning of our conversation. He wanted to remind us that throughout his political career, he has had a profound attachment to Israel."

Last updated: 12:16pm, December 1 2011