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Agence France-Presse
New Delhi, January 06, 2008
The Indian government is struggling to find the right protocol for French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s girlfriend Carla Bruni if she accompanies him to New Delhi, local media said on Saturday. The newly divorced President is due to arrive in India on January 24 and will be the chief guest two days later at Republic Day celebrations, marking the day when India’s Republican Constitution came into effect in 1950.

Paris has communicated to New Delhi that Sarkozy’s ex-supermodel girlfriend may accompany him on his first official trip to India, the PTI said, quoting unnamed sources.

The news agency said India’s foreign ministry was in a dither on what protocol to extend to the President’s companion if Bruni (39), accompanies him to India, known for its sexual conservatism.

Bruni would not be entitled to join Sarkozy (52), for official engagements as the “girlfriend is not considered wife or spouse,” the Indian Express said in a front-page report.

“Perhaps it’s the first time that we’re faced with such a situation,” a foreign ministry official told the paper which added that the ministry and the French government were working out plans.

Bruni could be given privileges extended to a “delegate” accompanying the President, the paper said.

The foreign ministry and French embassy would not comment on the reports. Sarkozy’s relationship with Bruni has attracted huge media attention.

The pair spent Christmas in Egypt in a holiday trailed by a swarm of paparazzi, giggling and whispering together like teenage sweethearts, before Sarkozy started his official visit to the country.

The French President and his second wife Cecilia announced their divorce in October after 11 years of marriage.