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Sarkozy to direct attention to mideast

CAIRO: Nicolas Sarkozy’s spokesman announced Thursday that the new French president may turn his hand to the Mideast, just one day after ally British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair was appointed as the Quartet’s new envoy to the region. Sarkozy is to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Jordan s …


CAIRO: Nicolas Sarkozy’s spokesman announced Thursday that the new French president may turn his hand to the Mideast, just one day after ally British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair was appointed as the Quartet’s new envoy to the region.

Sarkozy is to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Jordan s King Abdullah this week.

Spokesman David Martinon did not say what kind of action Sarkozy might take. He does not particularly want to take initiatives in advance, in abstracto, he said.

President Sarkozy seems to have the Israeli authorities confidence and, to my knowledge, he also has the same level of respect from Arab leaders.

Political analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Nabil Abdel Fatah suggests otherwise, however.

“Sarkozy is closer to the US paradigm than any of his predecessors [Jacques] Chirac and [François] Mitterrand.

Abdel Fatah says one main obstacle would be that France has not had a clear Mideast policy since Charles de Gaulle. France is also not part of the Quartet of Middle East mediators, composed of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

Another obstacle, says Abdel Fatah, is the strong Jewish lobby in France which would influence policy as well.

Pro-Israeli US policy is widely blamed on the powerful US Jewish lobby groups such as the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPEC), which have influential connections to businesses, media, and politicians.

Regardless of the players, however, Abdel Fatah says the region is “at a boiling point . there is no hope for a peace settlement at this point in time, and blames this on a lack of a unified Arab stance and competing ambitions in the region stemming from Iran.

Sarkozy s talks with Middle East leaders follow a meeting last week with Saudi Arabia s King Abdullah, which Martinon said were extremely rich and fruitful.

He will meet Abbas in Paris on Friday, Martinon said, adding: It will enable President Sarkozy to reiterate to President Abbas all his support in the struggle against extremism and for the reconciliation of the Palestinian people. Sarkozy will meet Jordan s King Abdullah and Israel s Livni separately on Wednesday. Additional reporting by Reuters

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