Demos disrupt NATO spouses visit to Strasbourg

5th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The stars of the occasion were Michelle Obama, wife of the US President Barack Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, spouse of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, both smiling, elegant and subjected to a battery of photographers' flashes.

Strasbourg -- Violent demonstrations in Strasbourg, where NATO leaders were celebrating its 60th anniversary, disrupted a programme laid on for their spouses Saturday.

With hardcore groups of protesters clashing with riot police for a second day in the city, a planned visit to a cancer research centre in the morning was scrapped and replaced by a museum and cathedral tour.

The stars of the occasion were Michelle Obama, wife of the US President Barack Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, spouse of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, both smiling, elegant and subjected to a battery of photographers' flashes.

Mrs Obama wore black trousers and a belted black jacket. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy wore black trousers and a lilac coat with matching bag. The wife of Muslim Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Hayrunnisa Gul, wore a headscarf.

The group, all wives except for Joachim Sauer, the husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, visited Strasbourg's cathedral, built between the XIIth and XVth centuries and renowned for its stained glass windows, clock, pulpit and choir.

Obama stayed close to Gul, while Bruni-Sarkozy acted as interpreter to translate the explanations of the group's clerical guide.

After the cathedral visit Bruni-Sarkozy led the group to a museum and restoration centre.

Obama, who had been the last to arrive at the museum reception and the only one to be embraced by her hostess, was the first to leave at the conclusion of the tour.

Strasbourg was like a ghost town as around 10,000 police were deployed in buses around the city. The only traffic was the occasional bicycle and cafe owners had been told to close down. Locals and reporters covering the meeting had to undergo identity checks.

Later in the afternoon, violence worsened as protestors set fire to a hotel, wrecked a chapel, a pharmacy, an empty police post and other buildings at the French end of the Europe bridge connecting Strasbourg with Germany.

AFP/Expatica

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