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Sarkozy Takes Power, Promises Reforms

ANDREA SEABROOK, Host:

Unidentified Man #1: (French spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH TV NEWS)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: After posing for a photo, the outgoing and incoming presidents met alone for half an hour so that Chirac could give Sarkozy the secret codes to France's nuclear arsenal. And then, in a rather anti-climatic ending to his 12-year presidency, Chirac shook hands with Sarkozy, waved to the crowd and got in a car and drove away.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEARDSLEY: Last night, Chirac gave his final televised presidential address to the French people. He said he was proud of the work they had accomplished together and he urged France to stay united under President Sarkozy.

JACQUES CHIRAC: (Through translator) I am confident in France and I know the new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, will guide our country on its future path. I wish him the best in this most difficult and beautiful mission, serving our magnificent nation, France.

BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man #2: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man #3: (French spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF A 21-GUN SALUTE)

NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Through translator) Today, I think about the mandate with which the French people had entrusted me with great gravita(ph). I know I do not have the right to disappoint them. France must be stronger than ever to face the challenges of a fast-changing world - where falling behind can be fatal.

BEARDSLEY: If the official event was surprisingly lacking in ceremonial pomp. It's still captured the nation's attention. Some commentators compared it to the Cannes Film Festival when Sarkozy's wife, Cecilla, strode up the red carpet with the couple's five children, including her two daughters and his two sons, a sort of tall, blond, Brady Bunch clan that kept the French paparazzi clicking away.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SPEAKING IN FRENCH)

BEARDSLEY: Political commentator Nicole Bacharan says now there's no doubt, Cecilla Sarkozy will become France's first lady.

NICOLE BACHARAN: Today, her entrance with the four children and a couple they had from previous marriages and the little boys they had together was quite a statement about a change of generation. It was a very new thing, and there's, you know, a lot of electricity in the Sarkozy couple.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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