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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 16:27 GMT
Carla Bruni avoids protocol issue
Carla Bruni
Carla Bruni gained fame as a fashion model
Carla Bruni, the girlfriend of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has told a leading French newspaper that she will not travel with him to India this week.

Ms Bruni told Liberation newspaper that she could not go on an official trip as she was not married to him.

The decision means that Indian officials do not have to resolve protocol issues of how to treat a head of state's girlfriend.

Unmarried couples are still a rarity in largely conservative India.

Ms Bruni also said she had to record a new album.

Ms Bruni also quashed rumours that she had secretly married Mr Sarkozy.

Whirlwind romance

"I cannot take part in an official trip with the president," the former model told Liberation.

"We hadn't really planned it."

She said that although she and President Sarkozy are not yet married "it is in our plans".

She told the newspaper that she had a new album to record in February and would have to stay in Paris.

Nicolas Sarkozy with his girlfriend Carla Bruni visiting Egypt on 30 December
Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni holidayed in Egypt in December

"Also for health reasons, it's not good," she said.

The president's whirlwind romance with Ms Bruni ahead of his visit to India sent officials looking into protocol manuals over how to treat his girlfriend in a country where relationships outside of marriage are still widely frowned upon.

Mr Sarkozy has been inseparable from her over the past few months and their romance has been grabbing headlines around the world.

Mr Sarkozy will be the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on 26 January.

When the possibility of her accompanying him first emerged, the media went into speculation overdrive as to whether the tall and beautiful ex-model would share the plush five-star hotel suite where the president will be hosted.

'Protocol confusion'

Questions were asked also as to whether she would be seated at the official banquet with Indian President Pratibha Patil and her husband.

Officials said there was no precedent for a head of state visiting with their girlfriend and there is no mention in the rule book about where she should be accommodated or seated.

Officially, the foreign ministry refused to comment on the visit, but in private many diplomats hinted at the "protocol confusion" that gripped the government.

A lot of column space has been devoted to Mr Sarkozy's divorce last year from his former wife, Cecilia.

Ms Bruni's past liaisons with Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton have been analysed in great detail and her almost naked photographs from her modelling days have been dug out for the centrespreads.

Sarkozy in India protocol issue
18 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Profile: Carla Bruni
15 Jan 08 |  Europe
Sarkozy romance sparks furore
07 Jan 08 |  Europe
Profile: Nicolas Sarkozy
16 May 07 |  Europe

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