First lady not to join husband's Bulgaria trip

3rd October 2007, Comments 0 comments

3 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy will not join her husband on a trip to Sofia Thursday in order to avoid reviving controversy over her role in winning the release of Bulgarian medics jailed in Libya, the presidency said.

3 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy will not join her husband on a trip to Sofia Thursday in order to avoid reviving controversy over her role in winning the release of Bulgarian medics jailed in Libya, the presidency said.

Cecilia made two trips to Tripoli as presidential envoy to win the release of five nurses and a doctor jailed for life on charges of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the AIDS virus. She escorted them home on July 24.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is to receive Bulgaria's highest award during the one-day visit for his role in the affair, an award also promised to his wife. Both have already been made honorary citizens.

But at home Sarkozy has come under fire for involving Cecilia in the medics' case and a parliamentary inquiry has been launched to determine whether Paris traded arms and nuclear cooperation with Tripoli in exchange for their release.

"Mrs Sarkozy's actions in July linked to the release of the Bulgarian nurses has drawn and continues to draw numerous criticisms," said Sarkozy's office, confirming the first lady would not join him on the trip.

"Mrs Sarkozy was very touched by the welcome she was given at Sofia airport. She does not want to rekindle the controversy and therefore will not accompany the president of the republic."

The French first lady has ducked out of several high-profile public engagements since her husband's election in May, including a private lunch with the family of US President George W. Bush.

During the trip, Sarkozy was to hold talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Georgy Parvanov and Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, as well as meet the six freed medics.

AFP

Subject: German news

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