White House mum on Sarkozy and Obama chat about Netanyahu

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Obama walk together during arrivals for the G20 summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 3, 2011. Pool,AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Obama at G20
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Obama walk together during arrivals for the G20 summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 3, 2011.
Pool,AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer

The White House on Tuesday declined to comment on reports President Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy spoke candidly of their mutual frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while the two leaders were in Cannes last week for the G20 summit.

"I don't have any comment on the reported conversation that took place apparently in a bilateral" meeting between Mr. Obama and Sarkokzy, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One Tuesday as they flew to Pennsylvania for a speech by Mr. Obama.

In a private conversation accidentally broadcast to journalists, Sarkozy reportedly told Mr. Obama he "can't stand" the Israeli leader.

"Netanyahu, I can't stand him. He's a liar," Sarkozy reportedly told Mr. Obama, who did not object to Sarkozy's assessment.

"You are sick of him, but I have to work with him every day," Mr. Obama reportedly replied to Sarkozy ahead of a news conference.

Asked about the exchange three times, Carney each time sought to broaden the conversation and reiterated the Obama administration's opposition to Palestinian entry into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which France voted in favor of last month.

"I will say that it's well known that the President and that the U.S. and France did not agree on the UNESCO vote regarding the Palestinians," Carney said.

"Efforts to achieve U.N. membership or membership in U.N. agencies by the Palestinians were premature and counterproductive to the ultimate goal here, which is a negotiated peace between the two parties," Carney said, calling Mr. Obama's position on the matter "very firm."

Additional reporting by CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer

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