Image: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (right) and France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
Eric Feferberg  /  AFP - Getty Images
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, right, and France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy chat during a welcoming ceremony at Windsor Castle, near London, on Wednesday.
updated 3/26/2008 10:35:33 AM ET 2008-03-26T14:35:33

News that a nude picture of France's glamorous first lady would be auctioned off threatened to steal attention from President Nicolas Sarkozy's state visit to Great Britain on Wednesday.

Sarkozy pledged to send more troops to Afghanistan under the right conditions as he arrived for a two-day trip.

He said in an interview in advance of his arrival for the first state visit to Britain by a French president in 12 years that his country and Britain must work together on defense, immigration and the economy.

During the 36-hour trip he will be a guest of Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, hold talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and address members of both Houses of Parliament.

But a photo of model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy that appeared in a number of newspapers and will be auctioned off at a sale next month in New York City caught many people's attention.

The image was taken by photographer Michel Comte in 1993, when Bruni-Sarkozy was one of the world's most sought-after models. In the black-and-white photo, she strikes a pigeon-toed pose, her hands covering her crotch.

An official at Sarkozy's office declined Tuesday to comment on the April 10 sale, saying it concerned the leader's private life.

The photo is expected fetch $3,000-$4,000 at the auction, to be held at Rockefeller Plaza, according to the Web site for Christie's auction house.

Sarkozy divorced his second wife in October and married the Italian-born former model — now a successful singer — in February, after a quick courtship.

Committed to Afghanistan
The president planned to stick to a slew of weighty subjects during his visit, if the interview broadcast Wednesday was anything to go by. He said France is committed to winning in Afghanistan and that he is willing to send more troops to the country if France's allies are also ready to stay, give Afghans more responsibility and better coordinate nonmilitary efforts.

"Can we afford to lose in Afghanistan?" Sarkozy told British Broadcasting Corp. "Of course not. In Afghanistan, what is at stake is part of our battle against world terrorism."

Canada has warned that it will pull its 2,500 troops out of Afghanistan if other allies do not offer more help. Canada wants 1,000 more troops for anti-Taliban efforts.

"If all the terms and conditions are met, why not send in more troops?" Sarkozy said in the radio interview recorded in Paris on Tuesday.

Sarkozy also stressed his admiration for what he called British strength and dynamism, calling for "a new Franco-British brotherhood."

"It has been long enough now that we have not been at war, that we are not wrangling," he told the BBC. "Perhaps we can move from being cordial to being friendly — that's my first message."

The agenda for Sarkozy's meetings Thursday with Brown includes: the expansion of France's military role in NATO and Afghanistan, a possible joint nuclear energy program, immigration, and the credit crisis that has spread from the United States to Europe.

Greeted by Charles and Camilla
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla greeted Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy as they landed Wednesday morning at London's Heathrow Airport. They will receive a formal welcome from the queen and Prince Philip on the outskirts of Windsor before enjoying a carriage ride to the castle.

Video: Former French supermodel meets Queen Elizabeth After visiting the queen, Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey — a gesture designed to emphasize the two world wars Britain and France have fought together — and the president will give a speech to both houses of Parliament.

Sarkozy will attend a state banquet later Wednesday at Windsor Castle hosted by the queen and said he expects guests to be impressed by his ceremonial outfit.

His focus Thursday will be meetings with Brown at the British prime minister's official residence in Downing Street.

In an interview appearing Wednesday in France's Le Monde daily, Brown said that France and Britain could work together on projects including reforms of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He suggested the World Bank could be transformed into a bank financing environmental and development projects, while the IMF could become a financial crisis alert system.

Host of ministers to join
A host of French and British ministers will join the leaders for a summit at London's Emirates Stadium, home of the popular Arsenal soccer club, an English team with a French manager and some top French players.

Ministers plan to use the meetings to thrash out thorny issues including slow progress on a joint call for a 26,000-strong peacekeeping unit of U.N. and African Union troops for Sudan's western Darfur region and new support for French language lessons in British schools.

Sarkozy, who on Tuesday said he could "not close the door to any possibility" of a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, is likely to raise China's handling of protest in Tibet.

Brown insists attending the Olympics, and strengthening relations with China, is the best way of influencing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The British leader's wife Sarah Brown lunch will make her first public speech Thursday as she hosts Bruni-Sarkozy at a fundraising lunch for a maternal mortality charity.

Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy will ride a boat to the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich, east London, the site where the east and west hemispheres meet at zero degrees longitude, and home to a museum on timekeeping.

British officials said the French president requested to visit the site because of his fascination with clocks.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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