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Odd Suicide as French Pres Leaves Israel


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June 25, 2008

JERUSALEM: An Israeli police officer fatally shot himself in the head last night at an airport departure ceremony for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The shooting at Ben-Gurion airport sparked fears of an assassination attempt and prompted bodyguards to whisk Mr Sarkozy and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert away from the scene.

Dark-suited men quickly ushered Mr Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarzozy, up the stairs of their plane as Mr Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres were escorted to their cars.

In a panic, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy rushed up the stairs ahead of her husband.

Mr Olmert and Mr Peres were taken to their armoured cars.

The incident was over within minutes, and Mr Olmert boarded the plane to inform Mr Sarkozy of what had transpired, witnesses said.

Police spokesman Shlomi Sagi confirmed that a policeman guarding the airport had committed suicide just as Mr Sarkozy was about to board his plane as a band was playing.

Another police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, denied reports there had been an assassination attempt on the French leader.

Confusion had earlier surrounded the incident and radio said the soldier may have fallen off a roof, causing his weapon's accidental discharge.

The incident marred Mr Sarkozy's three-day trip to Israel, a visit meant to improve relations between the two countries.

French presidential spokesman Franck Louvrier could not be reached for comment on his mobile phone. Another presidential spokesman who was on another scheduled flight out of Tel Aviv said he knew nothing about the incident.

Mr Sarkozy had earlier met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, after which he had spoken out strongly in favour of a Palestinian state.

"The security of Israel is non-negotiable for France, but the creation of a viable, democratic, modern state for the Palestinians is a priority for France," he said as he wrapped up a three-day visit at a joint news conference with Abbas in the biblical town.

"We will work towards the creation of your state. We will use the same strength, the same commitment we used in ensuring Israel's security," said Mr Sarkozy, who on Monday had addressed the Israeli parliament.

He reiterated his call for Israel to freeze Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, widely seen as a major hurdle to already slow-moving peace talks.

Israel in recent months announced the construction of hundreds of new homes for settlers inthe West Bank, infuriating Palestinians and drawing sharp criticism from the international community.

"I told our Israeli friends the injustice done to the Jewish people can't be resolved by creating conditions of injustice for the Palestinian people," he said.


Looks to me as if Mr. Sarkozy narrowly avoided the "Yitzhak Rabin special". Good luck to him.

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