Baby-bump Carla ends France's state secret
Her hands cradling her swelling midriff, a visibly pregnant Carla Bruni-Sarkozy posed for pictures as she welcomed G8 leaders' wives Thursday, ending weeks of speculation about France's soon-to-be First Baby.
Wearing an above-the-knee, unbelted white dress and black tailored jacket, the supermodel chanteuse turned wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy smiled as she greeted the wives of the world's most powerful leaders for a separate programme devoted to her pet causes of illiteracy and AIDS.
Bruni, 43, and Sarkozy's Elysee Palace have declined to comment on rumours of her pregnancy throughout weeks of frenzied speculation in France, but with no attempt to hide the bump in Deauville, the ending of a state secret eclipsed the absence even of Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron.
Photographers who knew even before the summit that they would be craning for a view of "le bump" appeared to get a tacit acknowledgement from Bruni as her elegant hands slid maternally around her swelling middle.
At one stage as she posed with four of the wives, Bruni looked down and gestured to her bump with a maternal flourish.
Svetlana Medvedev, wife of the Russian president, presented the expectant mum with a bouquet of flowers.
Asked by a French journalist how his wife was doing, Sarkozy responded with his now customary mild exasperation, during his official press conference: "Listen, I've just had her on the phone. She seemed in good form. I'll tell her you were asking about her. It won't be a surprise."
For weeks an open secret in Paris, Sarkozy's father last week told the German daily Bild that he was expecting a new grandchild.
Michelle Obama's absence, a surprise to the huge international press corps here, had earlier threatened to overshadow the G8 wives' events.
The crowd-pulling US First Lady bade a very public farewell to President Barack Obama, kissing her husband on the tarmac of Stanstead airport near London as they ended a three-day state visit before the start of the Deaville summit. She was driven away in an SUV, while Obama boarded his plane alone.
The White House offered no details of Michelle Obama's programme, but she sometimes drops off portions of her husband's overseas tours to return home to be with her daughters Malia and Sasha.
Downing Street confirmed the absence from the summit of Prime Minister David Cameron's wife.
"Samantha wasn't planning to come. The baby is still too little for her to travel," a spokesman said, referring to Florence, their third child, born to the Camerons last summer.
There was no such let-up in sight for France's first lady, however, as she embarked on a packed agenda for the wives.
After lunch on the first day of the summit on Thursday, Bruni was taking her guests to visit food producers from the Normandy region before hosting a working session dubbed "together against illiteracy."
In the evening, Bruni and Sarkozy will play host to the other leaders and their spouses for a dinner on the seafront terrace of Le Ciro's restaurant in the elegant Channel seaside resort.
On Friday she will welcome the wives of the African leaders invited to join the heads of the G8 powerhouses at the summit, before hosting a working lunch for another of her causes, protecting mothers and children from AIDS.
Sarkozy is due to run for re-election in April next year, and some political commentators have predicted that a new baby could help boost his disastrous polling numbers as he tries to win back lost support.
Bruni already has a 10-year-old son, Aurelien, from an earlier relationship with the philosopher Raphael Enthoven, and 56-year-old Sarkozy has three sons aged 14, 25 and 26 from two previous marriages.
© 2011 AFP