Sarkozy attends Pratibha's "At Home"

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New Delhi, Jan 26 (UNI) French President Nicholas Sarkozy was the cynosure of all eyes at the "At Home" reception hosted by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on the occasion of the 59th Republic Day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan today.

The customary reception at the sprawling Mughal Gardens was unusually delayed for nearly 25 minutes due to the late arrival of Mr Sarkozy, who was also the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade earlier in the day.

Mr Sarkozy left for Agra to visit Taj Mahal immediately after the parade. However, he could not reach here as scheduled at 1600 hrs due to bad weather conditions.

The reception began at 1625 hrs when Mr Sarkozy arrived at the Mughal gardens to join a host of dignitaries who included Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan.

The 1000-odd invitees to the reception were jostling for vantage positions to have a glimpse of Mr Sarkozy and President Patil. Both took a round and shook hands with the invitees.

Mr Sarkozy obliged a few visitors who sought his autograph.

"It was fantastic," he told UNI, when asked how he felt while being there at the 17th century monument to love.

Though the reception was delayed by 25 minutes, it came to a close as scheduled at 1700 hrs.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, BJP President Rajnath Singh, top civil and military officials, diplomats and eminent persons from different fields attended the reception, the first after Ms Patil became the first woman President of Republic.

UNI PMD SH RL AS1821

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