Sarkozy to Jewish group: Iran solution ‘not military’

French leader says Netanyahu must soften his policies towards the Palestinians.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
February 10, 2012 03:34
2 minute read.
Sarkozy at annual CRIF dinner in Paris

Sarkozy 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The best way to deal with Iran is through diplomacy and not military action, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy to a Jewish group at an event in Paris on Wednesday.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, the Jewish umbrella group better known by its acronym CRIF, the president said he believed the recent round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic would yield beneficial results.

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“The solution is political, the solution is diplomatic, the solution is in sanctions,” he said.

Sarkozy, who is known for his support of Israel, said he also wanted to deliver the Islamic Republic a message that it had “crossed a red line” by its insistence to continue developing its nuclear program despite international condemnation.

He warned Israel from carrying out “irreparable” actions, referring to rumors that Israel might launch air strikes against Iran to prevent it from passing the nuclear threshold.

The French president defended his decision to support the Palestinian bid for full membership at UNESCO, an organization based in Paris.

“Israelis, more than any other people, should be able to identify with the Palestinians [yearning for a state],” he said.

Sarkozy also commented on his bumpy relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The French president, who was overheard at a conference telling US President Barack Obama that he thought Netanyahu was a “liar,” said the Israeli prime minister was known for his “firmness” and needed to soften his policies towards the Palestinians.

“Someone who is firm must be open, because he doesn’t have to prove his firmness and his strength,” he said of Netanyahu.

Sarkozy attended the event together with François Hollande, the Socialist candidate in the French presidential elections that will be held later this year. Hollande, who is currently leading in the polls, approached Sarkozy after his speech and shook hands with him as photographers snapped photos.

CRIF chairman Richard Prasquier told gatherers that while Israel was in the “heart of his affections,” it was not beyond scrutiny.

The Jewish leader said he disagreed with religious leaders in Israel whose worldview was “incompatible with gender equality.”

He added he would not heed calls from Israeli lawmakers to help change French law to allow the extradition of its citizens to Israel, referring to the case in which two French citizens ran over an Israeli woman, Lee Zeitouni, in Tel Aviv and fled the country.

Moving on to the Arab Spring, Prasquier said the uprisings around the Middle East introduced new hopes and fears into the region.

Although worried by “death to Jews” chants that he heard at anti-government protests, he said the Middle East was better without leaders like Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was ousted from power last year.

Prasquier expressed his disappointment with the Palestinians at the conclusion of his speech. Their leadership is not willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist, he said.

“The reality of the conflict, Mr. President, is that despite all our hopes, all your hopes, the Palestinian leaders have still not recognized that truth; we have not seen them with a map containing the name Israel, we have not heard them admit that Jerusalem is a foundational place for Israel,” he said.


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