(Photo: AP)

On the eve of his White House visit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in New York on Monday voicing support for President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, saying he couldn’t believe there was opposition to them.

“You can’t let people simply die,” Sarkozy told an audience of hundreds at Columbia University, adding that “the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them.”

Sarkozy, 55, spent his day-and-a-half stopover in Gotham cuddling up to model-singer wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 42, an apparent attempt to counter rumors of infidelity on both their parts. The French president had a special podium and rug flown in for his Columbia speech and also requested a certain espresso machine, the school said.

Sarkozy’s schedule also included a meeting Monday with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations and with U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. The headline-grabbing Sarkozys are set to join another star power political couple, the Obamas, for a private dinner.

The war in Afghanistan will be at the top of the agenda for Tuesday’s White House meeting between Sarkozy and Obama, whose relationship has been strained with the U.S. president seen as snubbing European affairs in favor of domestic priorities.

The French president must walk a fine line amid widespread disapproval of the war at home. Sarkozy’s approval ratings in France are at 32 percent, their lowest since his 2007 election, a poll showed yesterday. Obama, however, needs his European counterparts to commit more troops to the fighting.

(With AP)

emily.ngo@am-ny.com

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On the world leaders’ plates Tuesday:
What Sarkozy wants:
* Global finance reform as France gears up to host G-8 and G-20
* U.S. as a security ally against terror threats in Europe
* Concrete pledges to combat global warming

What Obama wants:
* More European troops and training in Afghanistan
* France’s support in facing defiant Iran
* To soothe tensions amid allegations of U.S. protectionism