France’s glamorous first couple is no more

.PARIS (AP) – President Nicolas Sarkozy and his elegant but enigmatic wife, Cecilia, called it quits and abruptly announced their divorce Thursday after months of speculation about their marriage.

The split, a first for France, spelled the end of a seemingly passionate but deeply political power couple who had challenged the traditional role of president and first lady.

It struck a deep, personal blow to Sarkozy’s 5-month-old presidency, though friends insisted it wouldn’t dent his energetic leadership as he works to reshape France, make it more competitive and nurture its alliance with the United States.

The 15-word statement from the presidential office said Cecilia, 49, and Nicolas, 52, mutually agreed to end their relationship of more than 20 years, 11 of them as a married couple. “They will have no comment,” the statement concluded.

Sarkozy flew to Lisbon, Portugal, for a European summit shortly afterward, leaving a nation strike-bound by workers angered by his planned pension reforms.

The divorce, granted Monday, followed weeks of unconfirmed reports about an impending split, fed by frequent absences of the first lady – a title she shunned – at official occasions.

Until the Sarkozys, French presidents’ private lives remained largely off-limits to the media. But Sarkozy courted the spotlight for years in his long run-up to the presidency, talking frequently about his relationship – and that has meant his marital troubles were front-page news.