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Sarkozy charms the world

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Rabbi Arthur Schneier (right), presents the Appeal of Conscience World Statesman Award to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and GE chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt look on along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In his brief visit to New York this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed continued pressure on Iran, reiterated his condemnation of anti-Semitism and extolled France’s close relationship with America. No wonder he is being feted by the Jews and Jewish-sponsored human rights groups.

He was honored by both the Elie Wiesel Foundation and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and gave passionate speeches at both events extolling human rights and slamming anti-Semitism and racism.

Lauded by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, as a “man of courage,” Sarkozy quipped Tuesday night that it was a dubious honor to receive the group’s “World Statesman” award at a time “when everything is going wrong” in the world.

Earlier in the day, the French leader made a forceful speech at the United Nations, vowing to pursue further sanctions against Iran and urging that those responsible for the world financial crisis be held accountable.

Sarkozy, elected president of France just last year, has catapulted onto the world stage rapidly, playing a key role in resolving political tensions in Lebanon, working out a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia and hosting an international gathering of Mediterranean country leaders, including Israel, Syria and other Arab nations.

Not all pro-Israel advocates – or Jews in France – support his outreach to Syria and they wonder whether as the current president of the European Union, he will do much to ease tensions with Israel. The E.U. Parliament, for example, earlier this month passed a resolution conditioning improved relations with Israel on Israel improving its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

As incidents of anti-Semitism in France continue to dominate headlines, it’s not clear how much Sarkozy will be able to do to quell it, despite his forceful condemnation.

Still, Sarkozy and his current stature is garnering a great deal of attention, even though he appears more popular abroad than at home. Sadly, much of the media are more enamored by his wife, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, than by him. At the press opportunity with Sarkozy at the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, there were as many paparazzi crowding around the couple as political reporters and photographers. You can bet “Inside Edition” wasn’t there to hear his views on the political and financial crises of the day.

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