French media says Sarkozys seen divorce judge

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PARIS, Oct 17 (Reuters) French media reported today that President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia appeared before a judge at the start of the week to begin formal divorce proceedings.

Sarkozy's spokesman declined to comment on the report, which first appeared on the Web site of French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur and was later posted on LCI television's Web site with more details.

Rumours have been circulating in French media for weeks that France's ''first couple'' were set to announce their separation and today's reports were the most specific to date.

Nouvel Observateur said that, according to unspecified sources, the pair saw a judge late on Monday to discuss their divorce details.

LCI reported that Cecilia applied to a judge for a divorce on Monday and that a judge came to the Elysee, the French president's residence, later the same day to see Sarkozy to validate the procedure.

Sarkozy, 52, and Cecilia, a 49-year old former model, got married in 1996. They have a young son and two children each from their respective previous marriages.

Cecilia played a major role in her husband's career, serving as an adviser during his rise to power. However, the couple briefly split in 2005 and speculation of fresh marital strife surfaced during this year's election campaign when Cecilia failed to show up at her husband's countless rallies.

Since his May victory, she has attended only three official events, the last time on July 14.

Sarkozy's spokesman has repeatedly refused to comment on the growing rumours of an irrevocable split.

REUTERS PD HT1927

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