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Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gives birth to girl but says 'there will never be a photo'

By John Lichfield in Paris

France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gave birth to a baby girl in a private clinic in Paris last night.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was not present for the birth.

He visited his wife in the clinic yesterday afternoon before flying to Frankfurt for talks on the eurozone debt crisis with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Elysee Palace made no official announcement but friends of Ms Bruni-Sarkozy told the French news agency, AFP, that she had given birth to a girl at about 8pm, Paris time.

"We don't know what her name will be," one friend said.

The baby was the first ever born to the wife of a French president during his term of office.

The couple married less than four months after Sarkozy took office in May 2007.

The last legitimate baby to be born to a French head of state was Napoleon Eugene Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, son of the Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie in March 1856.

Ms Bruni-Sarkozy (43) has a son (11) from a previous relationship.

Mr Sarkozy has three sons, aged 26, 25 and 14, from two previous marriages.

Ms Bruni-Sarkozy checked into the Clinique de la Muette, an eight-storey modern building in the wealthy 16th arrondissement in western Paris, yesterday morning.

The clinic, the maternity hospital of choice for the wealthy and famous in France, has said that Ms Bruni-Sarkozy would be treated "like any other mum".

All the same, an entire floor has been cleared to ensure her security and privacy.

The birth ended sometimes breathless speculation about Ms Bruni-Sarkozy's due date.

Photographers had staked out the clinic since early October, with a security detail limiting their access.

The crowd of photographers and television crews was waiting behind crush barriers, erected 200 metres from the entrance, when Mr Sarkozy visited the clinic for 30 minutes at about 4pm yesterday afternoon.

He then flew to Germany for emergency talks with Angela Merkel and other officials on the debt crisis facing the euro.

Earlier this week, the president told journalists that he hoped "Carla doesn't give birth on Sunday" when he is due to attend a make-or-break eurozone summit in Brussels.

The Elysee Palace, which has never officially confirmed the pregnancy, said that it would not be making any comment on the birth.

However, Europe 1 radio said the birth "went well" for the Italian-born first lady, who is a singer and former supermodel.

Last month, in one of her few interviews on the subject, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy said that she would refuse to allow any photographs to be published.

"I will never show a photograph of this child," she said.

"You don't have a child to play to the gallery and my position as the wife of the head of state has made me even more defensive. I understand the media interest and I don't see any inconvenience in it for myself or my husband, but when it concerns the children it is impossible."

It remains to be seen whether her wishes will be respected. Some of President Nicolas Sarkozy's supporters have expressed the hope that he will benefit from a "baby dividend" in French public affections.

The president's popularity has sunk to new lows in recent weeks. A poll published yesterday suggested that, if the second round of presidential elections was held next weekend instead of in May, he would lose to the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande by a crushing 62pc to 38.International and French gossip sites on the internet have been running false alarms about the birth for almost a month; public interest in France has been tepid at most.

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