CAIRO, Egypt – Three Egyptian lawmakers criticized the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy in parliament saying it was improper that his girlfriend shared a room with him, the local press reported Friday.
Independent deputy Gamal Zahran said in parliament Thursday that it was improper for Sarkozy and his new companion, supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni, to stay in the same room during their visit to the southern city of Luxor, reported the independent dailies al-Dustour and al-Badeel.
He criticized the Egyptian government for setting a bad example by welcoming them.
"The regime gave the wrong message from the country of al-Azhar to all other countries that we are ready to accept official prostitution by heads of state," he said, referring to Egypt's premier institution of Sunni Islamic learning.
Under Islamic laws and traditions, unmarried or unrelated couples are not permitted to stay in the same room and Egyptian or Muslim visitors are asked to produce proof of marriage when checking into a hotel.
Western couples, however, are always exempt from this rule.
"Even if Bruni was Sarkozy's fiance not mistress, church traditions do not allow her to live in his bedroom and if the Egyptian side was fair, then it should apply the penal code against him," Zahran added.
Sarkozy and Bruni first surfaced as a couple earlier this month in French media on a visit to Disneyland Paris and two months after the French president's divorce from his wife of 11 years, Cecilia.
Sobhi Saleh, a deputy with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood opposition also questioned parliament "if the Egyptian constitution allows an official government welcome to a head of state and his mistress."
Another Brotherhood parliamentarian, Hamdi Hassan, raised the issue of who was paying for the trip, suggesting that it came from public funds.
"I am afraid that the expenses of Sarkozy's private visit and his mistress will be paid by the government, a thing which is unacceptable," he said.
In Luxor itself, however, inhabitants seemed very happy with the visit of Sarkozy and Bruni and the couple were given a warm welcome and followed by dozens of Egyptians all hoping to have their picture taken with them.
In the coffee shops, Egyptians eagerly followed the daily coverage of Sarkozy, his son and their partners on television.
Sarkozy's party left Luxor Thursday to spend two days in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik. His official visit will start Sunday, when Sarkozy goes to Cairo to meet with President Hosni Mubarak are to hold talks.