Rabu, 26 Desember 2007

Sarkozy takes new love to the Valley of the Kings (AFP)

LUXOR, Egypt (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy took a stroll through the Egypts spectacular Valley of the Kings on Wednesday, hand in hand with his new girlfriend, singer and ex-supermodel Carla Bruni.

The couple giggled and whispered together like a pair of teenage sweethearts as they toured the tombs of the pharaohs near the city of Luxor surrounded by paparazzi having arrived in a 15-car convoy.

Italian-born Bruni, 39, was dressed in black trousers and top and wore one of Sarkozys white shirts bearing his initials on the breast pocket, while he opted for a pair of jeans and a green patterned shirt.

Recently divorced Sarkozy flew into Egypt on Tuesday where he will relax for a few days ahead of an official visit on December 30.

Flanked by bodyguards, the pair smiled and waved to onlookers and took time to chat to some Egyptians.

French archaeologist Christian Leblanc guided the party around two of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, where many of Egypts most powerful pharaohs are buried.

"He was very interested and so was his companion," Leblanc said.

Emerging from the tomb of Seti I, one of Luxors most renowned which is usually closed to the public, Sarkozy said "Its beautiful," with a big grin.

Some of the tombs best reliefs, however, are to be seen at the Louvre museum in Paris, having been removed by European adventurers centuries ago.

After visiting the tombs the couple took a traditional felucca boat out on the Nile for a picnic, accompanied by Brunis mother and one of Sarkozys sons.

They enjoyed a two-hour lunch on the boat, with Bruni seen at one stage resting her head affectionately on the French leaders back.

They then travelled to Karnak to see some of the famed pharaonic ruins there.

Sarkozy is staying in a 1,100-dollar (760-euro) a night suite in the Victorian elegance of the Old Winter Palace on the east bank of the Nile, an Egyptian source said.

The president and his second wife Cecilia announced their divorce in October after 11 years of marriage. Since then, he has been publicly seen with Bruni but has remained tight-lipped about his relationship with the model-turned-singer.

The couple were first photographed together on December 15 at Disneyland Paris in a "coming out" that some saw as a means of moving on from Sarkozys controversial red-carpet reception for Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafis visit to Paris.

The president is due to fly to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday before travelling to Cairo on his first official Middle Eastern visit for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday.

However, almost all media attention is focused on Sarkozys relationship with Bruni, heiress to a tyre fortune whose former boyfriends include rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.

Sarkozy sparked a political storm in France for flying to Egypt in the private jet of billionaire businessman Vincent Bollore.

Opposition parties accused the president of compromising his office, and asked what plastics-to-media magnate Bollore can expect in return for his generosity.

Sarkozy triggered a similar row after his election in May when he spent several days on Bollores private yacht off Malta.

The businessman denies seeking to influence the president, noting that less than one percent of his holding companys turnover comes from government contracts.

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