PARIS French President Nicolas Sarkozy could marry Italian singer and former model Carla Bruni early next month, a French newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting unidentified sources.
In a report widely picked up on French radio and television, the Journal du Dimanche said Sarkozy had given Bruni a diamond engagement ring and received a watch from the exclusive Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe in exchange.
"They are getting married! February 9?" the newspaper said in a front-page headline over a photograph of Sarkozy and Bruni, both in sunglasses, visiting the ancient site of Petra in Jordan at the weekend.
It said a wedding date had been set for Friday, February 8 or more probably Saturday, February 9.
Sarkozy's office declined to comment.
The report coincided with the release of an opinion poll in the daily Le Parisien, showing a seven-point drop in Sarkozy's approval ratings, mainly because of concern over the economy but in part also because his private life.
Stephane Rozes, head of the CSA polling institute which carried out the survey, told Le Parisien that older voters in particular appeared to have been turned off by coverage of Sarkozy's private life.
"The heavy media exposure of the president's personal life, affecting the function of the president, clearly offends traditional sections of government supporters," he said. "The fall among older people, who we know are attached to traditional values, is significant from this point of view."
The couple, who met at a party in November just weeks after Sarkozy divorced his second wife Cecilia, have dominated coverage in French media with magazines lavishing extensive color spreads on their visits to Disneyland Paris and Egypt.
Following their visit to Egypt last month, during which Sarkozy was criticized for using a private jet belonging to one of France's most influential businessmen, they visited Jordan at the weekend, at the invitation of Jordan's King Abdullah.
Sarkozy is due to pay a state visit to Saudi Arabia next week but on Sunday a Saudi official said Bruni would not be joining him because Islam did not recognize non-matrimonial relationships.
The protocol in Saudi Arabia, which applies an austere form of Islam, allows only married leaders' wives to accompany their husbands on visits to the kingdom.
"Ms Bruni will not be coming to Riyadh for obvious reasons," a Saudi government official said on condition of anonymity. He declined to elaborate.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie in Paris and Souhail Karam in Riyadh; editing by Andrew Dobbie)