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US, French first ladies to work together on AIDS

The world's two best-known first ladies, Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, met for the first time Friday and agreed to work together to combat the scourge of AIDS.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife welcomed her US opposite number to France and took her aside for a one-on-one lunch while their husbands held talks ahead of the NATO alliance's 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg.

"Madame Obama was very happy to work with Carla to on maternal health matters, notably in the area of fighting AIDS," a source in Sarkozy's entourage told AFP after the meeting.

The official said the women would talk on the telephone in the coming weeks and come up with joint plans by the end of the year.

Bruni-Sarkozy, a glamorous former model turned singer-songwriter who lost a brother to AIDS, has already championed the cause since she began seeking a more stately role following her marriage to the French leader in February 2008.

In February she flew to Burkina Faso in West Africa for her inaugural trip for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which had named her a goodwill ambassador in December.

Bruni-Sarkozy also filled Obama in on the work of a special emergency service set up in Paris in 1993 to help the homeless in the French capital.

Barack and Michelle Obama had flown to France directly from London, where the US president had taken part the G20 summit, on the start their first European tour since he took office in January.

The first ladies met in the courtyard of the Rohan Palace, an imposing former princely residence which is now a museum, delighting the assembled press photographers.

Obama, dressed in a black coat adorned with a fuchsia floral pattern over a fuchsia dress, was greeted with a kiss by Bruni-Sarkozy, herself elegant in a beige dress and taupe coat, accessorized by a metallic blue bag.

Strasbourg has been locked down for the NATO summit, with a heavy police presence to ward off demonstrators, giving little chance for ordinary bystanders to catch a glimpse of the Obamas.

Outside the Rohan Palace, however, a small crowd of 200 people was on hand. Many were from Sarkozy's governing centre-right party.

They chanted the first ladies' names, while several of them cried out, "You're both beautiful".

Lunch was provided by Strasbourg's Michelin-starred chef Philippe Bohrer, who told AFP he had been briefed by the French president's office that the US first lady's favourite dish was marinated scallops and asparagus with caviar.

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Publication:AFP American Edition
Date:Apr 3, 2009
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