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Another kind of merger won official approval today. The president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, got married less than four months after his divorce from wife number two. Sarkozy raised even more Gallic eyebrows as his high profile private life became a national soap opera. Eleanor Beardsley has our report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Fifty-four-year-old French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially tied the knot and France has a new first lady. She is 40-year-old Italian supermodel turned pop singer Carla Bruni. The couple wed in a private ceremony at the Elysee Presidential Palace surrounded by family and friends.

Francois Lebel, the deputy Paris mayor who married them, spoke on French radio.

Mayor FRANCOIS LEBEL (Paris): (Speaking French)

BEARDSLEY: The bride was in white and ravishing as usual, he said, but the groom wasn't bad either. It was a simple and intimate moment and it's obvious they have great affection for each other.

Bruni and Sarkozy were first spotted together at Euro Disney in December. Since then photos of the couple holding hands at the pyramids during a romantic jaunt to Egypt and Jordan were splashed all over the French press and TV. The president has been criticized for flaunting his private life at a time when the French economy and mood are down.

Coincidence or not, Sarkozy's poll numbers have dropped since he began seeing Bruni. But Sarkozy had said he wants to break with the hypocrisy of past French presidents over their private lives.

President NICOLAS SARKOZY (France): (Speaking French)

BEARDSLEY: At a recent press conference he said he and Carla did not want to lie or hide. Many analysts say the marriage will put an end to the speculation over Sarkozy's private life and stabilize him. And Bruni, they say, might even make a good first lady.

The new premiere dame is a rich heiress of Italian origin who is cultured and speaks five languages. She moved from a successful career as a supermodel in the 1990s to that of a ballad singer with a top album in France.

(Soundbite of song)

BEARDSLEY: The tall brunette has been romantically linked to a string of famous men, including rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.

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BEARDSLEY: Out on the Paris streets the news broke fast. Sixty-year-old Marie Kevez-Gemino says she's thrilled for the president.

Ms. MARIE KEVEZ-GEMINO: (Speaking French)

BEARDSLEY: If it's a beautiful love story, why not, she says. He doesn't have to answer to anybody. Then she adds, but love isn't the only thing. He should still take care of us, the French people.

Ms. KEVEZ-GEMINO: (Speaking French)

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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