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Sarkozy's wife pregnant, his dad says

Ex-model is 43

PARIS - The expectant granddad has spilled the beans: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is pregnant.

Germany's top-selling newspaper yesterday quoted President Nicolas Sarkozy's father as saying that the first lady is having a baby.

And one of her predecessors says a child at the presidential palace will be wonderful for the whole country.

"It's wonderful news to see this baby coming. It's a chance for France, absolutely," Bernadette Chirac, wife of ex-French President Jacques Chirac, told reporters in Paris yesterday at an event for a literacy foundation hosted by Bruni-Sarkozy.

"And a birth, it's a wonderful event for a family, the arrival of a child. There is nothing nicer. A baby at the Elysee, yes. It's wonderful for them and for all the French people," Chirac said.

Bruni-Sarkozy, also at the event, declined to respond to questions about the pregnancy. Sarkozy's office also refused all comment.

Germany's Bild newspaper quoted Pal Sarkozy as saying: "Neither wants to know the gender beforehand, but I'm certain it will be a girl, and beautiful like Carla."

A pregnancy could be a potential strategic coup for Sarkozy, less than a year before presidential elections and with his top rival in deep trouble. His popularity is in the doldrums, but a baby in the Elysee Palace could help voters relate to a man they have seen as increasingly out of touch with their worries.

Reports of her pregnancy first surfaced in late April, when gossip magazine Closer ran a story saying the 43-year-old first lady was three months pregnant. The magazine said that officials were keeping it under wraps because her age makes it a high-risk pregnancy.

Bruni-Sarkozy and Sarkozy married in early 2008 - less than a year after he took office. She has a son from an earlier relationship, and Sarkozy has three sons from his two previous marriages.

From a wealthy family in Turin, Italy, Bruni-Sarkozy had a successful career as a model before becoming a singer-songwriter, known for her soulful lyrics and wispy voice.

She's also known for her topsy-turvy romantic life, which included relationships with the likes of Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.