PARIS (JTA) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar” in a private conversation with President Obama.
“I can’t stand him anymore, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy said, in comments first reported in French by the website Arret sur Images. The comment came during an exchange between the two world leaders on Nov. 3 at the G20 conference in Cannes.
Obama then responded by saying, “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.”
Several journalists overheard the exchange, which was captured by a live microphone unbeknownest to the two leaders, but it was not immediately reported.
The Arret sur Images website said Sarkozy was responding to Obama’s concern that the French leader had not warned him about France’s surprise vote in favor of Palestinian UNESCO membership. The website also reported that Obama asked Sarkozy to try to “convince” the Palestinians to slow down their bid for U.N. membership.
“You have to pass the message along to the Palestinians that they must stop this immediately,” Obama said of the membership bid, according to Reuters.
Sarkozy confirmed that France would not take any unilateral decisions during the forthcoming Security Council debate on the subject.
“I am with you on that,” Obama replied, according to Reuters.
AFP and Reuters both confirmed the initial Arret sur Images report, and AFP reported that it interviewed several journalists who said they heard the private conversation right before a joint news conference by the two leaders.
According to Arret sur Images, Obama and Sarkozy were speaking in a room equipped with microphones normally used to facilitate translation during public speaking. An event organizer did not distribute the headphones typically used to connect to the translation boxes, but several journalists plugged in their own earphones and could hear some three minutes at the end of the conversation.