French president marries former model

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PARIS -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy married former model Carla Bruni on Saturday at the Elysee Palace, the couple announced, tying the knot less than three months after they reportedly first met.

In a terse statement, the couple said only that they "were married this morning in the presence of their families in the strictest privacy." The official statement followed an announcement of the wedding several hours earlier from the official who had performed the ceremony at the presidential Elysee Palace.

"The bride wore white; she was ravishing, as usual," Francois Lebel, mayor of Paris' eighth arrondissement, or neighborhood, told Europe-1 radio. "The groom wasn't bad either."

Sarkozy, 53, and Bruni, 40, were married in the presence of about 20 close family and friends, Lebel said. He called the ceremony "a moment of family intimacy for the young newlyweds, of great simplicity and apparently a lot of affection between the spouses.

"I wished them a lot of happiness," he said.

Under French law, couples must tie the knot before a mayor to make their union official. Sarkozy was not the first French president to marry in office: Gaston Doumergue tied the knot at the Elysee Palace in 1931.

Sarkozy's openness about his private life has surprised many French, accustomed to presidents who keep their love lives under wraps.

At a news conference in January, Sarkozy revealed that the relationship was "serious" and hinted that wedding plans were in the works. But he refused to reveal the date for a wedding, saying only that France might learn about the nuptials once they had already taken place.

The couple went public with their relationship during a visit to Disneyland Paris, and they carried out their brief but highly publicized courtship in such places as the ruins of Petra, Jordan. The tabloids even showed the couple at an Egyptian beach resort, Bruni in a tiny black bikini, Sarkozy in trunks, gold chain and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Sarkozy's approval ratings dropped during their courtship -- in part, analysts say, because many older, more traditional voters were put off by his glitzy, jet-setting style.

The wedding was the third for Sarkozy, who has three children. It was the first for Bruni, an Italian-born heiress who had a major modeling career and a well-publicized love life. Bruni, now a singer, dated rockers Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, tycoon Donald Trump and actor Vincent Perez. She has a young son, Aurelien, from a relationship with philosophy professor Raphael Enthoven.

Sarkozy could not devote the entire day to celebrations. He also was busy with a crisis in Chad, the former French colony in central Africa. As rebels penetrated Chad's capital, Sarkozy called a meeting at the Elysee Palace and spoke by telephone with Chad's president.



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