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France

Nicolas Sarkozy visits Merkel, stoking talk of comeback bid for French presidency

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has met privately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and delivered a speech in Berlin. He struck a nostalgic tone but would not be drawn on his rumored presidential ambitions.

After his closed-door talks in the chancellor's offices in Berlin, Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the conservative Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the capital.

"I have absolutely no intention of bringing to an end the complete pause in all political activity that I had wished for," Sarkozy said at the very start of his address, before praising post-war Franco-German ties and his former working relationship with Merkel.

Sarkozy has not stated any public ambitions of a return to the French presidency after his 2012 election defeat to Socialist Francois Hollande. Friday's top-level meeting in Berlin, coupled with the internal tensions in the conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) that Sarkozy represented, have further fueled speculation that he might launch a campaign in time for the 2017 vote.

Deutschland Frankreich Ex-Präsident Nicolas Sarkozy zu Besuch in Berlin

At his one public appearance, Sarkozy lauded the 'leadership' he and Merkel displayed

The former president focused in particular on the steady improvement of Franco-German ties since the Second World War, describing it as a "gift" that was simultaneously shared, sacred and inestimable, but also fragile.

Fond 'Merkozy' memories

"In a period of five years, in close cooperation with Chancellor Merkel's government, we did everything in our power to ensure that our countries acted in unison, to prevent the banking crisis from washing away the world economy and to save the euro from the torments that threatened to sweep everything away," Sarkozy told his audience, not once mentioning his successor Hollande in the address. Despite a heavy media presence, he did not open up the floor to questions afterwards.

Merkel appeared on the campaign trail with Sarkozy, to criticism from the opposition Social Democrats in Germany, in the run-up to the 2012 French election.

"I can only confirm that both have met and have talked, but the discussion was confidential and remains confidential," Merkel's deputy spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin.

Hollande's domestic approval ratings have plummeted since his election, hitting record lows of around 20 percent early this year, before his heavily-publicized split with long-term partner Valerie Trierweiler.

msh/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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