Sarkozy rushes to Taj Mahal with wife Bruni

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to visit the Taj Mahal with his wife Carla Bruni on Saturday, tearing up his schedule to see the "monument to love" on the first day of his trip to India.

The Sarkozys had been scheduled to visit the 17th-century mausoleum on Sunday, but changed their plans at the last minute.

They visited at sunset shortly after arriving in the Taj city of Agra, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the Indian capital New Delhi.

Local media said the couple's decision to visit without advance warning upset thousands of tourists who had braved long queues to see the monument but were ejected for security reasons.

The press was kept at bay by heavy security, and the French presidency stressed that the trip was a "private visit".

Sarkozy last visited India in 2008, just before he married pop star Bruni, and vowed to return to see the Taj Mahal with her.

The president's office gave no new schedule for Sunday morning, when the couple had been expected to visit the monument. Later in the day, they will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the capital.

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.

It draws almost three million domestic and foreign tourists annually.

Sarkozy is on a four-day visit to India where he is lobbying for business deals with French companies, while looking to cement ties with a fast-emerging country that has increasing influence on the global stage.

He began his trip in the southern IT and technology hub of Bangalore, and will travel to New Delhi on Sunday before heading to commercial capital Mumbai on Tuesday.

© 2010 AFP

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