Sarkozy: France will always be at Israel's side

At Jewish groups' event, French president says he won't meet people who refuse to recognize Jewish state.

olmert LOVES sarkozy 298 (photo credit: )
olmert LOVES sarkozy 298
(photo credit: )
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would visit Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of founding of the Jewish State. The trip will be his first visit to the country since taking office last May. Sarkozy did not give an exact date for his trip, but Israel celebrates the anniversary of its founding in May. Speaking before one of France's leading Jewish organizations, the French leader said he would address the Knesset, Israel's parliament, during the visit - which he said came in response to an invitation by President Shimon Peres, who visited Paris last March. Sarkozy, who is seen as closer to Israel than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, reiterated his pledges to stand by Israel. "France will always be at Israel's side," he told the audience of about 1,000 people at an annual event hosted by the Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France, or CRIF. "I would not meet with, I would not shake the hand of people who refuse to recognize Israel," Sarkozy said. France will continue to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, Sarkozy said. France has been a vocal supporter of new sanctions against Iran because of the country's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb. Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian uses only. Sarkozy also said he believed a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians is possible this year - but called both sides to make concessions. He called Israeli settlements in the West Bank an "obstacle to peace" and urged the release of some Palestinian prisoners. He said the Palestinians need to continue to crack down on terrorism and reform their security services.