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Sarkozy drops text-message case

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with his new wife, Carla Bruni
The first couple's relationship is under constant media scrutiny

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has abandoned a lawsuit against a magazine which alleged that he offered to take back his former wife.

The Nouvel Observateur said Mr Sarkozy had made the offer in a text message to Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz - a week before marrying his current wife, Carla Bruni.

Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy now says Mr Sarkozy has withdrawn the complaint after she received an apology.

But despite apologising, the reporter refuses to retract the story entirely.

In the article, Airy Routier alleged that eight days before Mr Sarkozy's marriage to Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy on 2 February, he sent a text message to his former wife, saying: "If you come back, I'll call it all off."

On Wednesday, Mr Routier's letter of apology to Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy was reprinted on the website of Le Nouvel Observateur.

Message claim

Mr Sarkozy remarried on 2 February - less than four months after the end of his volatile marriage to Ms Ciganer-Albeniz.

Former French first lady Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz
Cecilia reportedly denies ever receiving the text

The allegation that just days before the wedding, he offered to call it off in a text message to his former wife, prompted Mr Sarkozy to file a suit against the weekly Nouvel Observateur.

However, in Wednesday's Le Monde newspaper, Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy says her husband decided to withdraw the complaint after they received a letter of apology from Mr Routier.

In an opinion article entitled "Stop the slander", she accuses Le Nouvel Observateur of failing to check the allegation.

Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy goes on to berate the media for falling standards of accuracy, asking: "If, from now on, rumour is used as the basis for news, if fantasies become scoops, where are we headed?

"If major newspapers fail to sift out rumour from facts, who will do it?

"If, like the trashiest of magazines, Le Nouvel Observateur, betraying its charter, its calling and even its name, ceases to observe but makes up the stories it tells, what defence is left to us against the hysteria of the age?"

'Indelicacy'

But in a statement written in response to Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy's, Mr Routier insists the story was not wrong.

"I have absolutely not modified my position on the authenticity of the contested SMS," he says.

He said that - of his own initiative - he did indeed write a "private letter" to Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy apologising for having hurt her feelings by publishing the allegation.

"This letter should, in my view, have remained private. [But] Carla Bruni has had the indelicacy of referring to it publicly while distorting the meaning. Therefore, with regret, I have decided to publish the entire contents of the letter," Mr Routier writes.

Reports say Ms Ciganer-Albeniz denies ever having received the text message in question - and according to Reuters news agency, Mr Routier acknowledges not having seen the message himself.

But, the agency says, Mr Routier insists he received the information from a strong source.



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