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Sarkozy defies tradition, confirms rumor

January 09, 2008|Geraldine Baum and Achrene Sicakyuz | Times Staff Writers

PARIS — The president of France did not say he was going to get married to his new love. But he did not rule it out.

What President Nicolas Sarkozy did confirm Tuesday was that his relationship with Carla Bruni, a former supermodel turned folk singer, was "serious," and that if they were to marry the news media would not be involved.

"There are strong chances you will learn of it once it's done," Sarkozy told nearly 600 journalists during the annual New Year's news conference at the Elysee Palace.

Certainly the news media have chronicled the relationship, which began shortly after Sarkozy and his wife divorced in October. Journalists and paparazzi eagerly tracked the couple on vacations in Egypt and Jordan as well as on a weekend outing to EuroDisney with their children.

Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, reported over the weekend that Sarkozy, 52, and Bruni, 40, would wed in early February. But Sarkozy said, "The JDD won't set the date."

Sarkozy pointed out that, by answering questions about his private life, he was breaking with French presidents' custom of keeping personal matters secret with the complicity of the news media.

"I am breaking with a deplorable tradition in our political life, that of hypocrisy, that of lies," he said.

Insisting that he wasn't being judgmental, Sarkozy referred to (though not by name) a trip that the late President Francois Mitterrand took to Egypt in a "presidential plane" with his mistress.

"Everyone knew about it and nobody talked," Sarkozy said. "With Carla, we have decided not to lie."

The reference to the plane was likely a reaction to critics who questioned Sarkozy's decision to borrow a plane from a wealthy friend for his recent trip and to stay at an expensive resort when the French are feeling squeezed by basic costs for gas, food and rent.

Despite keen interest in Sarkozy's marital future, it came up only briefly Tuesday. The 2 1/2-hour session with reporters was dominated by his defense of the first eight months of his presidency and laying out plans for the year to come. He talked about reforming the French Constitution and his vision of an economically and politically more unified Europe.

The president also noted accusations that he uses his private life to distract the public from problems of state. He mentioned suggestions by journalists that he had timed his divorce from Cecilia Sarkozy to eclipse coverage of a nationwide transportation strike.

"I bore them no grudge," he said. "I was just ashamed for them to be so far from the realities of life."


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