Sarkozy in Love

For a so-called "private visit," French president Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to Luxor on the Nile this week has been one of the most photographed, most public tours ever seen in Egypt.

That's because he was accompanied by his new girlfriend, the lovely heiress, former supermodel and folksinger, Carla Bruni. There they were, hand in hand, strolling through the Valley of the Kings, along with a small army of journalists and photographers. How romantic.

But this is just the kind of privacy that Sarkozy wants.

When he was elected president last summer, Sarkozy was married to the lovely Cecilia, also a former model. But Cecilia, said to have gypsy blood, didn't like all the protocol.

On a visit with President Bush and the first lady in Kennebunkport, Maine, Cecilia didn't bother to show up for the official lunch, leaving Sarkozy pretty much on his own for the photo-ops. In October, she left him. Sarkozy, that is.

A divorce by mutual consent was announced almost immediately by the Elysee Palace. Within weeks, Sarkozy arranged to be photographed at Disneyland Paris with the beautiful Bruni, who bears a striking resemblance to Cecilia.

Clearly, Sarkozy could not be seen to be heartbroken. He wasn't going to cry the blues, even though Bruni sometimes does. Her recent album of throaty love songs sold 2 million copies.

According to the French papers, Bruni is a bit of a femme fatale, with a long list of romantic conquests. The rock stars Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger are reportedly among her former "close friends," as is Donald Trump.

But right now, she only has eyes for "Sarko," as the president is frequently called in the tabloid press. He seems to feel the same way about her, as the whole world now knows after three days of saturation coverage by the French and international press.

There's even talk of marriage, which would be his third.

Their holiday romance on the Nile comes to an end early next week, when Sarkozy is scheduled to meet Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for official meetings in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh. It's not clear if his beloved will still be with him.

His very public love life has amused and intrigued everyone, apart from one member of the Egyptian parliament, Dr. Gamal Zahran, who wants to know whether the Egyptian government picked up the tab for Sarko's love-tryst on Egyptian soil.

Zahran says this would "send the wrong message to the world, that we are ready to allow official prostitution conducted by heads of states."

Those could be fighting words, or at the very least, provoke a diplomatic incident. But Sarkozy may be too much in love to care.

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