Justice minister's pregnancy in the spotlight

French Justice Minister Rachida Dati confirmed Wednesday that she was pregnant, but refused to reveal the father's identity. Amid media speculation, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar denied being the one.


Spain's former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has denied he is the father of French Justice Minister Rachida Dati's expected child which featured prominently in European newspapers Thursday.

A photograph of the 42-year-old minister's swelling figure as she left a French cabinet meeting, was plastered across front pages of papers in Italy and Spain.

Dati, an ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy, confirmed on Wednesday that she was pregnant, without saying who the father was, saying she had a "complicated private life."

But Aznar issued a statement denying as "totally and completely false" a rumour published by Moroccan internet site L'Observateur that he was the father.

This episode illustrates "how the internet has changed the rules of the game, serving as a channel for the publication of rumours and unsourced information that would be unlikely to be published in the traditional press but which nevertheless end up there when the persons concerned by the  pseudo-information are forced to intervene," said Spain's El Mundo.  

Italy's Corriere della Sera said Dati, France's first minister from a North African immigrant family, was "an example for single mothers."

"The woman who faces maternity alone is no longer an 'unfortunate' who has to hide but a proud woman who retreats from noone," it said.

"Sarkozy's star cabinet member pregnant - but who is the father?" asked a headline in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

Dati confirmed the news to a small group of reporters who questioned her about mounting rumours. "I want to remain careful, because... I am still in the risky stage. I am 42," she was quoted as saying.

She insisted on keeping the father's name a secret. "I have a complicated private life. That is the limit I have set myself with regard to the press. I will not say anything on that."

Dati has been propelled into the spotlight following her appointment by Sarkozy last year.

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.

She has turned out in designer clothes at official events and has posed for the cover of the glossy Paris Match magazine.

But a string of aides have resigned over her management style and 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.

Around half of all French babies are born out of wedlock, but Dati is the first serving minister to become pregnant while not in a known relationship.

In an interview to appear in Le Point magazine Thursday, Dati says she hopes to remain in post at the justice ministry "as long as possible."

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