It's a girl for French president and wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
REPORTING FROM PARIS -- It's a girl! After weeks of feverish rumour and speculation, French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday night, her second child and husband President Nicolas Sarkozy's fourth.
The infant is the first to be born to a serving president in the history of the French Republic. The Italian-born Bruni-Sarkozy confirmed the name of her daughter as Giulia, the Italian form of Julia.
Afterward Sarkozy, who proved unable to live up to his nickname SuperSarko the Omnipresident by being in two places at once, missing the birth to fly to Germany for talks on the Eurozone crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, spoke of the couple's "very profound joy."
"We have been lucky enough to find great happiness. All parents understand our very profound joy, a joy all the deeper because it is private," he said during a visit to a factory in western France on Thursday.
With presidential elections next spring, some Sarkozy supporters hope the baby will boost the French leader's lagging popularity, giving him an extra "father of the nation" appeal. Sarkozy has been in the doldrums in the polls; the latest found he could be defeated by a landslide by the newly chosen Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande.
Asked during a television program whether the birth would have an effect, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet replied: "In any event, it will have an impact on Nicolas Sarkozy. He's very happy.
"A president who is happy in himself, clear in his head and in his life, is a gift for the country," he added.
But others have warned the president against using his private life for political ends, saying such a strategy is unlikely to be a vote winner.
Bruni-Sarkozy, 43, a supermodel turned folk singer, married Sarkozy in 2008 after a whirlwind romance. The child is the first daughter for both, and the presidential couple have insisted she will be kept out of the spotlight. Bruni-Sarkozy has a 10-year-old son from a previous relationship and Sarkozy has three sons between the ages of 14 and 26 from two previous marriages.
The birth ended two weeks of speculation after the baby's due date, reported to be at the beginning of October, came and went.
Sarkozy, 56, made two brief visits to the upmarket La Muette clinic in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris on Thursday, but seemed determined to show it was business as usual as he prepared for a key European summit in Brussels this weekend. France and Germany have been trying to thrash out an agreement over enlarging the emergency fund to prop up the euro.
-- Kim Willsher
Photo: French President Nicolas Sarkozy receives a small oak tree as a gift after the birth of his daughter during a visit to a recycling factory near Laval, in western France, on Thursday. Credit: Remy de la Mauviniere / Pool Photo