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Baby, what baby? France, or part of France, greeted the birth of President Nicolas Sarkozy's daughter with an ostentatious yawn.

The centre-left newspaper Liberation ignored the event. The upmarket Le Monde carried only a teasing story on page two, mocking the obsession of the twittosphere and foreign press with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's pregnancy.

It also led its front page with the story that the world population was now 7 billion, implying, perhaps, that one baby was incidental.

Sarkozy was equally coy. He spoke of "very great happiness" but turned up at his wife's clinic yesterday with a sheaf of documents and departed after 40 minutes for an official engagement in western France.

There was some surprised comment in other French media at Sarkozy's decision to skip the birth on Thursday in favour of eurozone crisis talks in Germany.

Euro crisis talks are daily events after all; the birth of a daughter is special. Political commentators suggested the President was trying to make a point. New father or not, he would remain focused on trying to rescue the European economy.

Although some Sarkozy supporters have been hoping for a "baby bounce" in his poll ratings, the Elysee Palace insists the birth is a private, not public, event.

This may be tactical as well as principled. Much of his presidency has been dominated by his private life: his divorce, his marriage to Carla Bruni and his son Jean's fast-track political career. People would prefer what remains of Sarkozy's mandate to be devoted to them.

The studied lack of interest goes beyond the centre-left press. "We are not a monarchy. We are a Republic. I am delighted that they have a healthy baby but it is really no one else's concern," said Herve Letellier, a Paris-based businessman.

But not all French people shrugged yesterday. The print edition of Le Monde may have hardly covered the event but it was the third most visited story on its website. On French gossip and celebrity websites, interest was intense, especially in the possible name of the baby. The most common guesses were Dahlia, Julia and Marisa.

Bruni-Sarkozy, 43, gave birth at the exclusive Clinique de la Muette in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

After a brief visit to mother and child yesterday, Sarkozy, 56, flew to Mayenne to give a speech at a recycling plant; employees presented him with a bib, an oak sapling and a book "for maman" on how to lose weight after pregnancy.

"That is really very kind, very thoughtful," Sarkozy said. "We have been lucky enough to have a very great happiness ... a joy all the more profound because it is private."

Asked the baby's name, the President said: "Let's leave the pleasure of announcing that to the mother." Later it was confirmed as Giulia.

Le Monde may have refused to treat the birth of France's first First Baby for more than a century as news but it did claim one scoop yesterday. It published the first image of the presidential daughter.

A front-page cartoon pictured the L'Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, who was placed under judicial control by a French court this week. Next to her was a baby in a pram with Sarkozy's features saying: "Better put dad under judicial control. And quickly!"

- INDEPENDENT