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Most state visits are dry, boring affairs that generate little public interest. Fashion experts and gossip columnists stay away.
Not so when the cast of characters includes Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a glamorous Italian fashion model and pop singer who is now first lady of France, and Queen Elizabeth II, who will throw a banquet at Windsor Castle after taking her guests on a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor.
Oh, and the president of France will be there, too. Nicolas Sarkozy, in trouble at home, wants to leave the gossip behind and appear serious and presidential. He is banking on the two-day summit that swiss replica watches starts Wednesday as a first step toward reviving his popularity at home.
The president, derided by some as "President Bling Bling," will address Parliament, lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, and dine with political and business leaders.
Analysts say Sarkozy's visit to Britain as an official guest of the queen offers him a chance to show he can command respect on the world stage as a statesman, not just as a jet-setter with beautiful clothes and a striking third wife.
"The president is attempting to re-presidentialize his image," said Dominique Moisi, a political analyst with the French Institute for International Relations in Paris.
He said Sarkozy, whose center-right party has lost a string of local elections, is under pressure to have a successful meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bolster his standing as France prepares to take over the European Union presidency this summer.
For the summit to help Sarkozy, the president and his wife must project an image that will make French citizens proud, Moisi said.
"They have to behave in the proper manner that people expect from those who symbolize France," he said.
The agenda for Sarkozy's meetings Thursday with Brown includes a number of weighty topics: expansion of France's military role in NATO and Afghanistan, a joint nuclear energy program, immigration, and the credit crisis that has spread from the United States to Europe.
The timing could help shift attention away from Sarkozy's personal life. His approval ratings have fallen _ French voters apparently were turned off by his turbulent love life and his taste for Ray-Ban shades and Rolex watches.
There also will be pressure on Bruni-Sarkozy as she makes her first state visit as the first lady of France.
The British tabloid press has focused on her beauty _ and her prior relationships with rock icons Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton _ amid fevered speculation about what she will wear and how she will conduct herself when she meets the queen.
The Telegraph published a black and white nude photo of Bruni-Sarkozy on its Web site on Tuesday. A print of the photo will be auctioned by Christie's in New York. The Times ran photos of Bruni-Sarkozy in revealing designer gowns and called her the most prominent of the "Sarko babes" _ a reference to the attractive female members of the French Cabinet, who were also shown in evening wear.
British officials looking to improve ties with France are lavishing attention on the Sarkozys, who married in February after a romance that drew far more attention than Sarkozy's policies.
Brown hopes the visit will cement his warm relationship with Sarkozy, and offer a chance to discuss France's positive new stance toward the United States, British government officials said.
Relations between London and Paris have improved dramatically in recent months, and Sarkozy's arrival will provide a chance to showcase the change.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will greet Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy when they land Wednesday at Heathrow Airport. They will receive a formal welcome from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the outskirts of Windsor before taking a carriage ride to the castle.
After visiting the queen, Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy will lay a wreath at the Grave 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.
The focus Thursday will be Sarkozy's meetings with Brown at the British prime minister's official residence in Downing Street.
Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy also will visit the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich, east London, the site where the east and west hemispheres meet at zero replica watches degrees longitude, and home to a museum on timekeeping.
British officials said the French president asked to go there because of his fascination with clocks..
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