Rachida Dati keeps France guessing

LAST UPDATED AT 11:10 ON Fri 5 Sep 2008

A massive guessing game has begun in Paris. The question? Who is the man responsible for the pregnancy of Rachida Dati, France’s glamorous Justice Minister? As reported here on Thursday, Dati, 42, has confirmed that she is expecting her first baby but has refused to identify the father, saying only: "My private life is complicated and I am keeping it off-limits to the media."

The current favourite among the gossip-mongers is Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish Prime Minister and friend of Dati’s boss and champion, President Sarkozy. So pervasive are the rumours, which began on a Moroccan news website (Dati holds Moroccan as well as French nationality), that he has been forced to take the extraordinary step of denying he is the mystery lover. An official statement from his office said: "In relation to the rumours that have appeared in certain areas of the media linking Jose Maria Aznar with the pregnancy of Rachida Dati, we would like to state the following: the claims are totally and utterly false."

Although he is not high on the list, Nicolas Sarkozy, who treated Dati as his unofficial presidential consort for several months before he met Carla Bruni, is also among the suspects. Others in the frame are businessmen Henri Proglio, boss of Veolia Environment, and Dominique Desseigne, chief of the Barriere casino and hotel chain, both multi-millionaires. Dati is said to have broken up with Proglio last winter. Another rumoured name is a popular television host and producer known as Arthur.

Dati has rarely been out of the headlines since Sarkozy appointed her his Justice Minister last May – making her the first woman from a non-European immigrant background to hold a Cabinet position in France.

Earlier this year she was criticised for using her office on the Place Vendome for a fashion shoot in Paris Match – one outraged judge called her the "Barbie doll minister" - and a recent book exposed the difficult relationship between her and Carla Bruni, the president’s new wife. According to the authors of La Veritable Histoire de Carla et Nicolas, Bruni and Dati were walking through the presidential bedroom in the Elysee Palace when Carla pointed to the bed and said: "You would have liked to occupy it, wouldn't you?" · 

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