Sarkozy's Woes: Workers Strike, Marriage in Crisis

French public workers demonstrate in Marseille, during a 24-hour strike against the government's ref i i

hide captionFrench public workers demonstrate in Marseilles, during a 24-hour strike against the government's reform plans of historic pensions privileges.

Boris Harvat/AFP/Getty Images
French public workers demonstrate in Marseille, during a 24-hour strike against the government's ref

French public workers demonstrate in Marseilles, during a 24-hour strike against the government's reform plans of historic pensions privileges.

Boris Harvat/AFP/Getty Images

Many French workers are stuck at home Thursday, as transportation and utility unions hold a strike to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned pension changes. The strike comes as Sarkozy confirms that he and his wife Cecilia will separate — a move that would leave him without an important adviser.

The office of the French leader said that the couple is separating by mutual consent after nearly 11 years of marriage.

The French public had plenty of time to absorb that news Thursday, as a 24-hour public transportation strike made workers' commutes difficult or impossible.

France's Sarkozy, Wife Are Separating

Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy wearing black dress clothes. i i

hide captionNicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy, shown together in June at an event in Germany, are separating after 11 years of marriage.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy wearing black dress clothes.

Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy, shown together in June at an event in Germany, are separating after 11 years of marriage.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Cecilia, are separating by mutual consent after nearly 11 years of marriage, his office said Thursday.

The announcement ended weeks of speculation about troubles in their marriage and came as Sarkozy is facing the first major challenge of his five-month presidency: crippling nationwide transportation strikes.

The three-line, 15-word statement did not mention the word divorce, and said the two would not comment on the separation.

Sarkozy was in Portugal for a European Union summit.

The Sarkozys separated for several months in 2005, getting back together as the presidential campaign moved into high gear. However, Cecilia Sarkozy has rarely appeared with her husband in public since.

On Wednesday, the respected newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur reported on its Web site that Sarkozy, 52, and his 49-year-old wife appeared before a judge on Monday, and told him that they are seeking a legal separation. The report did not cite any sources.

News channel LCI gave a different version, saying Cecilia Sarkozy saw a judge alone Monday and the judge later visited the presidential Elysee Palace to give Sarkozy a document to countersign.

Rumors of the split sparked debate among experts over whether the constitution even allows them to divorce.

Two experts argued in a full-page commentary Wednesday in daily Liberation that Article 67 of the constitution, added to bolster presidential protection, prevents anyone, including a spouse, from bringing a legal action against the president.

Even divorce by mutual consent could be complicated because of the strong legal protections designed to keep sitting presidents out of court.

Both Sarkozys have been married before. They have two children each from their previous marriages, as well as their own son, Louis.

From Associated Press reports.

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