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France

WikiLeaks hurting Sarkozy’s international image

media Nicolas Sarkozy at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010. Reuters

WikiLeaks missives portray President Nicolas Sarkozy as “thin-skinned”, “mercurial” and operating in “a zone of monarch-like impunity”. Despite being “brilliant”, a litany of diplomatic gaffes are detailed by the leaked documents.
 

Multiple memos parsed Sarkozy's divorce, whirlwind remarriage to pop star Carla Bruni and glitzy lifestyle, but also how his “hard to predict” personality can inhibit his staff.

“Élysée contacts have reported to us the great lengths they will go to avoid disagreeing with him or provoking his displeasure,” said Charles Rivkin, the current US ambassador to France, in a WikiLeaks cable made available to The New York Times and The Guardian.

Rivkin added: “After two years in office, many seasoned key Élysée staff are leaving for prestigious onward assignments as a reward for their hard work, raising questions as to whether new faces will be any more willing to point out when the emperor is less than fully dressed.”

Franco-American relations have undergone a dramatic shift since 2003, when France refused to support the US invasion of Iraq. But Sarkozy’s often-declared affection for the US led to his description by one diplomat as the “most pro-American French president since the Second World War”.

But despite respect for his talents and political skills, many WikiLeaks documents describe serious limitations. A British diplomat said that Sarkozy preferred to speak with major players on the world scene because he was not good at dealing with "unimportant people".

During a meeting with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea, Sarkozy reportedly began talking before staff could sit down, "engaged in no small talk and the meeting was over in minutes, to the bewilderment of his visitors".

In several trips to Saudi Arabia Sarkozy has not made a favorable impression, as WikiLeaks reveals one US ambassador saying his offences were “minor in substance but significant to Saudi sensibilities”.

Among his alleged faux pas: spurning hospitality by avoiding local food, appearing bored during cultural shows made for his benefit and promoting French business interests too aggressively, according to various government officials.

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