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Sarkozy spills the beans in US TV interview

media President Nicolas Sarkozy is interviewed by Katie Couric for CBS News. CBS News

French President Nicolas Sarkozy talked nuclear security, foreign policy, Franco-US relations and those rumours about his marriage in an interview with American television channel CBS that was broadcast on Monday night.

The main focus of the 30-minute interview was nuclear security, to tie in with the international summit that US President Barack Obama is hosting in Washington this week.

Stressing that France is the only country to have revealed the number of nuclear warheads it owns – “about 300”, according to Sarkozy – the French president said that nuclear weapons should be considered a last resort, but a necessary one.

“We will do everything we can to avoid and prevent nuclear proliferation. We support the drawdown of nuclear weapons – but we need what we need in order to ensure the safety of our country,” he told CBS’ 60 Minutes programme.

Asked about Iran, Sarkozy said it would be “dangerous and unacceptable” for Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons. He urged the US and Europe to “shoulder our responsibilities” for reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions even if the United Nations Security Council votes against imposing new sanctions.

Sarkozy was also keen to stress France’s unity with the US on Afghanistan.

“I totally support the orientation adopted by President Obama. We cannot pull out of Afghanistan. We cannot afford to lose.”

Yet while France is prepared to make “an extra effort” by sending police trainers and civilian specialists, Sarkozy made it clear that he will not be deploying additional combat troops.

Questioned on domestic matters, the president put his declining approval ratings – which stand at around 30 per cent, according to recent surveys – down to the economic crisis.

“It’s only understandable that people shouldn’t be happy. […] But we were elected in order to implement the necessary reforms to bring our countries out of the proper crisis and upwards, and that’s what we’re endeavouring to do as best we can. But at the time of the next wave of elections, people will choose whom they will.”

Sarkozy will decide whether or not to run for re-election in 2012 presidential polls “probably between the end of the summer and beginning of autumn of 2011”.

As for the recent rumours circulating about the state of his marriage with Carla Bruni, Sarkozy said the story had been “totally blown out of proportion”.

“It’s part of modern life […] It’s not really worth wasting one’s time on or one’s breath on. In any case, there’s nothing much we can do about it, so we try and deal with it as calmly as possible.”

The couple remain “very close”, he added.

Sarkozy fielded the questions about his personal life in markedly better mood than he has done in the past. In 2007, the president stormed out of a previous interview with CBS after being asked about his relationship with his second wife, Cécilia.

Sarkozy turned up the charm in Monday’s interview, however, describing it as “an honour and a pleasure” to appear on the show and complimenting CBS anchor Katie Couric on her French. 

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