Saudi official calls on Sarkozy to visit kingdom without girlfriend

A senior Saudi official called on French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday to respect Saudi Arabia's conservative Islamic culture by visiting the country later this month without his former supermodel girlfriend. Sarkozy, who divorced his wife Cecilia in October, has flaunted his relationship with Carla Bruni on recent holidays in Egypt and Jordan, drawing criticism that he is being too loose with the presidential image. The Saudi diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Sarkozy should leave Carla Bruni behind for "religious reasons" when he visits the kingdom on Jan. 13. Under the strict interpretation of Islamic law enforced in Saudi Arabia, unmarried or unrelated couples are not permitted to be alone together. Westerners are expected to abide by the rules in public, and many hotels will not check unmarried Western couples into a single room.