US sidesteps Obama-Sarkozy digs at Netanyahu
The White House Tuesday sidestepped questions about an open mike chat in which French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Barack Obama vented frustration with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sarkozy reportedly called the Israeli prime minister a "liar" and Obama expressed impatience with having to deal with him, in an overheard conversation at the G20 summit in France,
"I don't have any comment on a reported conversation that apparently took place in a bilateral (meeting)" White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
"I don't have any comment on any conversations specifically."
But Carney did weigh in on another reported aspect of the conversation last week in Cannes, in which Obama reportedly complained to Sarkozy over France's vote for Palestinian membership in UN cultural agency UNESCO.
"I will say, it is well known that the president and the US and France do not agree on the UNESCO vote regarding the Palestinians," Carney said.
"The president's very firm position has been efforts to achieve UN membership in UN agencies by the Palestinians were premature and counterproductive."
Washington says the only way for Palestinians to win statehood is through a resumption of stalled direct talks on the shape of their future nation with Israel.
The private conversation between Obama and Sarkozy was overheard by a number of journalists after it was inadvertently transmitted over a system used for translation, media website Arret sur Images reported.
Sarkozy was reported as saying of Netanyahu to Obama in French : "I can't stand him anymore, he's a liar."
"You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day," Obama, who has had testy relations with the Israeli leader, replied in comments that were translated into French.
A number of journalists contacted by AFP confirmed hearing the remarks.
The website quoted a number of journalists saying a group decision was made not to report the conversation as it was considered private and off-the-record.
© 2011 AFP