Sarkozy's wife to skip Morocco trip, rumours grow

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PARIS, Oct 15 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy will not be accompanied by his wife on a state visit to Morocco next week, his spokesman said today, fuelling widespread rumours that the couple are set to divorce.

Presidential spokesman David Martinon ducked six separate questions on the state of the Sarkozy marriage during his weekly news conference, confirming only that Cecilia would not travel to Morocco with her husband next week.

French presidents' wives have traditionally taken part in such state visits, but Cecilia has not attended any official engagement since the July 14 Bastille Day holiday and the media has suggested a divorce was imminent.

Martinon, who is known to be close to Cecilia, refused to be drawn on the marriage, looking uncomfortable as reporters pressed the issue during the televised news conference.

''I have no comment to make. Really, really, really, I have nothing to say about this,'' an exasperated Martinon said.

French media rarely comment on the private lives of politicians, but Cecilia's prolonged absence has put the Sarkozy marriage on the front page of the usually prim press.

The couple separated for several months in 2005 and Cecilia moved to New York to live with another man, but they got back together again in 2006 amidst a blaze of publicity and public declarations of love on Sarkozy's part.

Cecilia played a crucial role in her husband's rise to power, serving as an adviser during his stints as interior and finance minister. So when she failed to appear during his election campaign earlier this year, tongues started wagging.

Since he took power in May, she has showed up at just three official events and pulled out of an informal meeting with U.S.

President George W Bush and his family in August.

''My only concern is my wife,'' Sarkozy reportedly told a small group of reporters during the July 14 celebrations.

REUTERS SKB HT1705

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