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Sarkozy criticizes Israel for settlements expansion
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09:47, June 23, 2008

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Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticized on Sunday the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the construction in east Jerusalem.

"You have made some bad decisions, like the expansion of settlements and east Jerusalem, where the construction is not good for Israel," said Sarkozy during his visit to Israeli President Shimon Peres' residence in Jerusalem.

Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, arrived in Israel late Sunday afternoon for a three-day trip as guests of Peres.

"The best and only guarantee for the state of Israel is an independent, democratic Palestinian state at its side," he added.

Peres responded that "there are no disagreements between us on the issue of the Palestinian state and the settlements. However, we evacuated many settlements in Gaza and the unfortunate result is Hamas firing at civilians, firing missiles at them."

Regarding the state of the Middle East, Sarkozy said, "France believes that for a long time there has been too much suffering and death. France believes there is no point in waiting for more years to count more deaths. What for? There is an immediate need for peace. We won't wait until tomorrow. It's time to turn the page. France believes in peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

As for the Iranian nuclear threat, Sarkozy said that "the Iranian crisis is the largest in the world. Israel is not alone in this crisis. France will always stand beside you and assist you when needed."

At a welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport, Sarkozy said, "I have always been and will always be a friend of Israel."

Sarkozy is scheduled on Monday to visit Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial and museum, and will also address the Knesset, according to Israeli government sources. He will accompany Peres on a helicopter tour of the Dead Sea and the Judeadesert.

The president will also head for the West Bank city of Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.


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