AFP - France's justice minister Rachida Dati gave birth to a baby girl in Paris late Friday, a government source said.
The child, named Zohra and born two weeks premature, according to the source, is the first for the 43-year-old, who is single, but close associates have said over recent weeks that Dati would not be absent from her ministerial responsibilities for long.
The identity of the father has remained the subject of much behind-the-scenes guessing in France, where Dati has become a political celebrity.
Her appointment by President Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2007 made her the first politician of north African origin to hold a senior French government post.
Dati has refused to be drawn on the matter, telling reporters in September that she had "a complicated private life" and would keep the father's name a secret.
A host of magazine covers celebrated her against-the-odds success story as the second of 12 children born to a Moroccan labourer and illiterate Algerian mother, hailing her as the new face of France.
But since then a string of aides resigned over her management style, critics have accused her of ramming through reforms.
Dati, who had an arranged marriage annulled in her youth, said it was "fundamental" for her to have a child.
"If it is consolidated, I will be happy and feel as if I have completed the circle. If not I will be deeply sad, but I will put a coat of lipstick on it, and carry the burden on my own," she said on announcing the pregnancy.
Three French women ministers have had children in the job before, including Sarkozy's defeated rival for the presidency Segolene Royal, when she was environment minister in the 1990s.