French Prez Nicolas Sarkozy arrives on two-day State visit

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New Delhi, Jan 25 (UNI) French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived here this morning to a red-carpet welcome on a two-day State visit that is expected to strengthen the strategic relationship between India and France.

He was received at the airport by Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and senior government officials. As earlier speculated, his girlfriend Carla Bruni did not accompany him.

Mr Sarkozy, who is here at the invitation of President Pratibha Patil, will be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade tomorrow.

He is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising six ministers, about 50 CEOs and 20 experts of the higher education department.

On his first visit to India after becoming the President, Mr Sarkozy will be the second French President to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in the past ten years.

The French President and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have official-level talks in the forenoon on several bilateral matters and regional and international issues.

A Joint Statement is likely to be issued after the talks which will provide a ''strategic roadmap for future cooperation'' between the two countries, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said here today.

The first to call on him will be Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The meeting with Mr Mukherjee will be followed by official talks with the Prime Minister and between the delegations of the two countries.

After the talks, the two sides will sign agreements for cooperation in various sectors.

This will be followed by a call-on by Leader of Opposition L K Advani and later by Vice President Hamid Ansari.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi will also call on him.

In the evening, Mr Sarkozy will meet President Pratibha Patil at Rastrapati Bhavan. Ms Patil will host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary.

He will visit the Taj Mahal at Agra on January 26 afternoon and return to Delhi in the evening to attend the 'At Home' Republic Day Reception given by President Pratibha Patil.

He will leave for Paris at about 2200 hrs.


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