French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Cecilia, are separating by mutual consent, the French president's office announced Thursday.

The statement ended weeks of speculation about troubles in the couple's 11-year marriage, and comes as Sarkozy is facing the first major challenge in his presidency: strikes on Thursday that crippled transport nationwide. He has been in office five months.

The three-line, 15-word statement did not mention the word divorce, and said the two would not comment on the separation. The president was in Portugal for a European Union summit.

The Sarkozys, whose 11th wedding anniversary is Oct. 23., separated for several months in 2005 but got back together as the presidential campaign moved into high gear. Cecilia Sarkozy has rarely appeared with her husband in public since.

On Wednesday, the respected newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur reported on its Web site that Sarkozy, 52, and his 49-year-old wife appeared before a judge on Monday, and told him that they were seeking a legal separation. The report did not cite any sources.

News channel LCI gave a different version, said Cecilia Sarkozy saw a judge alone Monday and the judge later visited the presidential Elysee Palace to give Sarkozy a document to countersign.

Both Sarkozys have been previously married. They have two children each from their previous marriages, as well as their own son, Louis.