Sarkozy overheard calling Netanyahu a liar

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been overheard saying he “can’t stand” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calling him a liar in a chat with President Barack Obama.

The conversation was heard by reporters last week at the G20 summit in France, via headsets that were to be used for simultaneous translation of a news conference.

Mr Obama was not heard objecting to Sarkozy’s characterisation of Mr Netanyahu.

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Through an interpreter, he was heard asking Mr Sarkozy to help persuade the Palestinians to stop their efforts to gain UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Mr Sarkozy said: “Netanyahu, I can’t stand him. He’s a liar.”

Mr Obama responded, “You are sick of him, but I have to work with him every day.”

Journalists at the bilateral Press conference had been handed translation boxes but had been told not to plug in their headphones until the backroom conversation had finished. But those who did heard the revealing comments.

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It is understood that several French-speaking journalists did not initially report them because Mr Sarkozy’s office had asked them not to turn on the headsets, and the comments were deemed private.

But a French website that analyses media coverage of current affairs reported the fragments.

Mr Sarkozy’s office would not comment on the remarks, or on France’s relations with Israel. The White House and Mr Netanyahu’s spokesman also said they had no comment.

It is not the first time Mr Sarkozy has been caught out – of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said: “She says she’s on a diet then she helps herself to a second helping of cheese.” Of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: “perhaps he’s not very intelligent”.

And when asked about Silvio Berlusconi’s ability to deliver reform in Italy he was at least stuck for words – although the roll of his eyes spoke volumes.