High-Profile Romance Gets Serious For Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and his new girlfriend, supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni, second from right, hold hands with an unidentified boy, center, during their visit to the ancient Jordanian ruins of Petra, Jordan, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. Sarkozy is on a private visit to Jordan but did meet King Abdullah II Friday at his residence in the port city of Aqaba and talked about the Middle East situation, including the peace process and the political deadlock in Lebanon. (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and his new girlfriend, supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni, second from right, hold hands with an unidentified boy, center, during their visit to the ancient Jordanian ruins of Petra, Jordan, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. Sarkozy is on a private visit to Jordan but did meet King Abdullah II Friday at his residence in the port city of Aqaba and talked about the Middle East situation, including the peace process and the political deadlock in Lebanon. (AP Photo/Nader Daoud) (Nader Daoud - AP)

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By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

PARIS, Jan. 7 -- Nicolas Sarkozy, who less than three months ago became the first French president to divorce while in office, is now reported to be on the verge of becoming the first one to wed while occupying the Elysee Palace.

The presidential press office did little Monday to dampen a newspaper account that Sarkozy, 52, plans next month to marry Carla Bruni, 40, the supermodel-turned-pop singer he has wooed in recent weeks with highly publicized tours of top tourist destinations, from Disneyland Paris to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

"I can't confirm it," said presidential spokeswoman Aurélia Jublin. "Just ask him tomorrow."

On Tuesday, Sarkozy, currently considered Europe's most eligible bachelor, is giving what may be the most anticipated news conference of his presidency.

"People cannot believe it -- everyone is talking about it," said Loic Sellin, editor of Voici, France's largest-circulation weekly celebrity magazine. "I'm astonished at this man who is changing presidential habits that quickly. We were used to a boring Elysee Palace where nothing ever happened, and as soon as he arrived he made it swing."

Indeed, perhaps no other prospective first lady anywhere has been described as "stunning in a bronze lamé sheath veiled with black tulle," as was Bruni by a fashion writer during her modeling heyday more than a decade ago, when she shared catwalks with the likes of Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson.

The weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche quoted unnamed sources as saying Sarkozy gave Italian-born Bruni a heart-shaped diamond engagement ring during a Christmas trip to Egypt as a prelude to a Feb. 8 or 9 wedding.

Bruni's mother, Marisa Tedeschi Bruni, who accompanied the couple on the Egyptian holiday, has been quoted in the Italian press saying that Sarkozy had asked for her daughter's hand and that she had agreed.

The reports came as Sarkozy's poll numbers and French economic projections have slumped and many of Sarkozy's proposed legislative programs face their toughest tests yet in Parliament. That has prompted some skeptics to question the timing of the holiday photo ops and wedding leaks.

In addition, a book by Sarkozy's recently divorced wife, Cecilia, and two other books by French journalists about the former first couple are scheduled for release this week.

"Is he trying to kill an old story with a new story?" asked Colombre Pringle, editorial director of Point de Vue, a glossy weekly magazine that focuses on the lives of the cultural and social elite. "One never knows."

The public initially seemed entertained by photographs of Sarkozy and Bruni canoodling while picnicking on a Nile riverboat and touring the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan with Bruni's young son sitting on the president's shoulders. But now many people question the propriety of the president's public displays of affection.


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