- Title: VARIOUS/FILE: Reported Sarkozy comments cause amusement in Spain
- Date: 18th April 2009
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (APRIL 17, 2009) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF 'LIBERATION' NEWSPAPER ON SARKOZY'S COMMENTS
- Reuters ID: LVA84IBT8UDO7LY9FM4Q817NO53D
- Duration: 00:00:20
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: A media report of comments by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on world leaders including Spain's prime minister caused amusement in Madrid on Friday (April 17), two weeks before a meeting between the leaders.
French left-wing newspaper 'Liberation' reported on Thursday that the president had made a string of comments about his U.S. and European allies during a lunch with parliamentarians, although guests at the meal gave varying accounts of the conversation.
"That's completely wrong," the president's office said, denying the comments.
In Spain, versions of the Liberation story reported in the local media provoked widespread mirth among politicians and even in left-leaning media, as well as some criticism.
Citing an unidentified guest at the meal, Liberation said Sarkozy had responded to a Socialist deputy who commented in a sceptical tone on Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero with the remark:
"He may not be very intelligent. I know people who were very intelligent and who didn't make it to the second round of the presidential election," apparently referring to Lionel Jospin, the failed Socialist candidate in the 2002 election.
Sarkozy was also reported to have said: "In my political career, I've often beaten people who were supposed to be more intelligent and who had better academic records than me."
"In a democracy, the important thing is to be re-elected. Look at (Italian Prime Minister Silvio) Berlusconi, he's been re-elected three times."
The lunch guests included opposition socialists and members of the Green party as well as Sarkozy's own UMP party, but no-one seemed to be certain about exactly what was said.
Communist Member of Parliament Jean-Pierre Brard, who attended the lunch, told Reuters: "He didn't say that about -- really. Sarkozy didn't say that Zapatero wasn't intelligent.
Brard added, however: "Because Sarkozy cannot stop being provocative he said something at the end of the meeting aimed at the Socialist MPs present then about Zapatero's decision on getting rid of advertising on public service television. So he said I may be not that intelligent but in fact some who are much more intelligent than me didn't even get through to the second round of the (French) Presidential election. So it's true that we had just been talking about what Zapatero had done. And as it often happens with Sarkozy he just kept on talking but I think that the President of the republic often says stupid things. But he wasn't stupid on that one."
Regarding U.S. President Barack Obama, Brard said of Sarkozy's comments: "When he says that Obama has only been in office two months and a half, that he has never managed anything -- when he says that topics such as carbon emissions tax, when he tells you about the familiar way they speak together. All of this is just spectacular typical Sarkozy."
Green parliamentarian Francois de Rugy, also one of the lunchers, said in his blog: "It is always difficult to say if this or that word was uttered."
But he added that "nothing in the article was wrong", although the comments could be interpreted in different ways.
Liberation said Sarkozy praised U.S. President Barack Obama's intelligence and charisma, then pointed out that he had never managed a ministry before being elected.
"He doesn't always have the required decisiveness and efficiency," he was reported as saying.
A spokesman for Zapatero said they did not comment on supposed private conversations.
Spanish opposition members seized the opportunity for mild jokes.
"Honestly, I am not at all happy that a foreign leader should make fun of our country's prime minister, even though he might be right," said the conservative Popular Party's spokesman Esteban Gonzalez Pons.
Sarkozy also said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had no choice but to join his initiative on supporting carmakers and the banking sector after she saw the state of Germany's banks and auto industry, Liberation reported.
The German government declined to comment.
Sarkozy and Zapatero are due to hold a joint news conference during the French leader's visit to Spain from April 27-28.
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