Sunday, November 1, 2009

PM Netanyahu to meet Sarkozy on way back from Washington; expected to laud France's tough stance on Iran

(Ynet).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on the way back from his trip to the US next week, Ynet learned on Sunday.

During the meeting Netanyahu plans to laud Sarkozy for his firm stance against Iran's nuclear ambitions and also ask the French leader to help jumpstart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Sarkozy invited Netanyahu to Paris during a phone conversation the two leaders held last week.

France is adamant in its demand that Iran accept a UN-backed plan to ship much of the country's uranium abroad for further enrichment.

The UN-brokered plan requires Iran to send 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium — around 70 percent of its stockpile — to Russia in one batch by the end of the year, easing concerns the material would be used for a bomb.

After further enrichment in Russia, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.

During the meeting the Israeli prime minister will also discuss the need for international pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the aim of resuming the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Officials in Jerusalem said France is capable of influencing Arab countries in such a way that they would to extend gestures to Israel as part of the efforts to achieve regional peace.

Netanyahu is scheduled to leave for Washington on November 8. During the visit the PM will speak with the heads of Jewish communities in North America. A meeting with President Barack Obama has not been confirmed by the White House as of yet.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak will accompany Netanyahu on his trip to Washington.

The PM's next stop will be New York, where he will present Israel's position amid the stalled peace talks and in the wake of the fallout from the publication of the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes during its January-December conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu's visit to the US is expected to conclude on Tuesday or Wednesday.