'Crucial visit.' Lieberman
Photo: Noam Moskowitz
Lieberman heads to US to explain Israel's position on flotilla
FM's aides dismiss claims speaking to Jewish communities a waste of public funds because he will be 'convincing those who are already convinced'

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was set to leave for North America Sunday night to meet with Israeli diplomats, as well as with Jewish communities in the US and Canada, to explain the Israeli government's position on the Gaza flotilla affair.


No meetings have been set up with US administration representatives or senior UN officials.


Lieberman and his deputy Danny Ayalon will speak before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and meet Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren, UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, Ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv and consul generals stationed throughout the US.


The foreign minister's office rejected claims that public funds are being used to cover the costs of a PR visit meant to "convince those who are already convinced."


"The trip to New York is crucial," a Foreign Ministry official said. "The minister is not going there to shop. He will be traveling 12 hours in each direction, and will work hard (in North America) for three days."


In addition to Ayalon, Lieberman will be accompanied by a number of other senior ministry officials.


"The minister should be praised, not criticized, for his efforts," the official added.


Before leaving for the US, Lieberman was expected to take part in a meeting of the "forum of seven ministers" to discuss the international community's demand to investigate the commando raid on the Gaza-bound ship, which left nine people dead.


The FM and his entourage are due back in Israel Wednesday.


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