Sarkozy dismisses media 'rantings' over marriage

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The Independent Online

French President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed media "rantings" about his marriage today and appealed to the British media: "I love England - don't make me regret it."

Mr Sarkozy was clearly irritated by questions at a press conference in Downing Street about internet rumours that both he and model-turned-singer Carla Bruni were having affairs.

"You clearly have no understanding of a president's timetable - I don't have a second to waste in these rantings, not even half a second," he told the French reporter who first raised the issue.

"I don't know why you would use your time asking such a question," he told him and later entirely ignored a similar query posed by a UK journalist.

Gordon Brown, with whom the president had been in talks at Number 10, made a point of thanking both Mr Sarkozy and his wife "for the personal friendship you have shown to me and Sarah."

France's glamorous "first lady" wowed British observers when she accompanied her husband on a state visit to the UK two years ago - but was not present on this short political visit.

The Prime Minister attempted to defuse the situation, telling reporters: "I have been able to tell Nicolas that I don't believe everything that I read in the British press."

And a now smiling Mr Sarkozy then quipped: "I love England - don't make me regret it".

The mainstream French media has largely ignored the reports, although one newspaper claimed they were the result of a hoax by a journalism student who wanted to see how far the rumour would spread.

However newspapers and broadcasters in some other countries - including the UK - have felt less constrained in referring to the claims, which remain unverified.