France's Sarkozy greets crowd into Elysee palace

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PARIS, Sep 15 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a gesture to boost his image of being a man of the people, threw open the doors of the Elysee palace and his working office to the public today.

Sarkozy, eager to underline a break with his aloof predecessors, personally greeted crowds at the gate of the palace and shook hands with many of the waiting visitors who had queued for entry since early morning.

''The people ... the Elysee palace belongs to them and it is normal that it should be open, including my offices, so that they can see where the head of state works, how it goes, what it looks like,'' he told reporters.

Each year during a weekend in September, ordinary French people can have access to the big buildings of state that are usually hermetically closed to them.

The presidential palace has been part of the tradition for many years but the office of the president on the first floor remained off limits up to now.

Sarkozy and family have not yet moved into the palace and still live in the suburb of Neuilly, where Sarkozy was mayor. He told Le Monde newspaper he was still undecided on a move.

Asked wether the palace was 'pleasant', he said; ''Pleasant is not the word I would use. It's beautiful, it's historic.'' In the courtyard visitors could see the two CitroJen SM Maserati cars from 1972 of former president Georges Pompidou and the Peugeot 607 cabriolet in which Sarkozy drove up the Champs Elysees to the palace when he took up his functions on May 16.


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