An emotional President basks in the warmthof Britain's welcome for 'woman of sensitivity'

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The Independent Online

Day two of Carla's state visit. And even when she was somewhere else, Mme Bruni-Sarkozy was the centre of attention.

At the so-called Emirates summit, Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of how "proud" he was of his wife Carla and said he had been "deeply moved" by her warm reception during their visit to Britain. In contrast, he rounded on the French media for its treatment of the Italian-born model and singer.

An emotional French President was not impressed when the man from Le Figaro quizzed him about the "very flattering positive comments" in the British media about Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and was asked if it wasn't "a bit too much". "I think it was well deserved," he told a joint press conference with Gordon Brown. "I am very happy to see that justice was done to her." He said the question implied that the man asking it had "a very infelicitous experience" of what being married meant.

Complaining about "wretched" coverage in France since his whirlwind romance with his third wife, he said: "Everyone has seen that she is a woman with convictions, sensitivity and humanity and it's her convictions, this sensitivity, this humanity, which make up Carla's elegance."

Although the press conference then ended, M. Sarkozy wasn't finished. He called over Bruno Jeudy, Le Figaro's correspondent, and spent five minutes talking to him amid a scrum of reporters. The President was calm but told Jeudy, "It's not so easy to have all those cameras on you when you're getting out of a car", adding that he had been "stressed out". He denied speculation that he and his wife had retired to bed after Wednesday night's state banquet at Windsor Castle rather than attend a reception hosted by the Queen.

His hosts remained polite but were left rather bemused by M. Sarkozy's unexpected press conference outburst. One British politician asked: "What do you expect if you marry a supermodel?"

M. Sarkozy, 53, separated from his second wife Cécilia last October following an 11-year marriage, five months after winning power. Last month, he married the 40-year-old Mme Bruni-Sarkozy. As M. Sarkozy gave his press conference, his wife joined forces with Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, to call for women to unite behind a campaign to ensure that male-dominated world leaders tackle the problem of women dying needlessly in childbirth.

They both addressed a lunch of 150 high-profile women at London's Lancaster House in support of the White Ribbon Alliance charity, which campaigns on maternal mortality. Ms Brown, a patron of the group, urged the guests to fight "the shameful silence" on the issue to ensure that a UN conference in September does not abandon a goal set in 2000 to cut maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015.

Speaking in good English, Mme Bruni-Sarkozy said: "One of the great tragedies of our time takes place in the shadows, particularly in developing countries when the most intense and wonderful moment of their lives – labour – might result in tragedy."

The guests included the singer Annie Lennox, the writers Lady Antonia Fraser, Kathy Lette and Arabella Weir, the cook Tana Ramsay, the designers Kelly Hoppen and Amanda Wakeley, the actress Diana Quick, the businesswoman Karren Brady, the MEP Glenys Kinnock, the presenters Davina McCall and Claudia Winkleman, and Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty. They dined on roast fillet of Cornish sea bass, salsa verde dressing, lemon fondant potatoes and seasonal vegetables and then apple cheesecake with cinnamon ice-cream.

Like M. Sarkozy, Ms Brown also joined the Carla fan club. Congratulating her on her marriage, she said: "I think we can expect great things of Nicolas, with you at his side."