French First Lady hospitalised in Paris

Valerie Trierweiler taken to hospital after media reports allege her partner, Francois Hollande, is having an affair.

French President Francois Hollande's political and personal woes deepened after it emerged that his girlfriend had been rushed to hospital following a report he has been having an affair with an actress.

Valerie Trierweiler, who lives with the president in the Elysee Palace, his official residence, was admitted to hospital on Friday"for rest and some tests", her office said, after Closer magazine published images linking him to actress Julie Gayet.

Hollande did not deny the report but protested at invasion of his privacy.

Conservative opposition leader Jean-Francois Cope has suggested the drama has damaged France's image abroad.

Trierweiler is expected to leave hospital on Monday, her office told AFP news agency.

A presidential news conference scheduled for Tuesday on plans to boost the flagging economy now looks like being overshadowed by Hollande's private life, correspondents say.

Opinion polls already suggest he is the most unpopular president in a generation - one on Thursday indicated that only 25% of French people trusted him.

The French media face strict privacy laws but the tradition of secrecy over the private lives of public figures has been steadily eroded in recent years.

However, opinion polls suggest the French public appears to be averse to reporting politicians' private lives.

According to an Ifop-JDD poll published on Sunday, three out of four French people believe the alleged affair is a private matter for the president.

On Friday, Closer magazine printed a seven-page article about the alleged affair between Hollande and Gayet.

It was illustrated with photos showing a man said to be the president visiting a flat near the Elysee Palace at the same time as Gayet.

The man said to be the president is wearing a helmet and is ferried to and from the building on a moped.

Hollande threatened to sue over the report, which he called an "attack on the right to privacy", without denying the allegation.

Allegations of the affair are not new. Gayet lodged a complaint in March last year after a report of the liaison appeared online.

In December, another actor, Stephane Guillon, teased her over Hollande during a talk show to promote a new film.

The same month, L'Express magazine reported mounting concern among presidential staff over the president's frequent "escapades", without giving details.

Trierweiler, who is a divorcee and mother of three children from an earlier marriage, is Hollande's official partner and lives in a wing of the Elysee Palace.

Hollande, who has never married, left his previous partner and mother of his own four children - fellow Socialist politician Segolene Royal - to be with her.

Cope, leader of the centre-right UMP, said that while he was "very attached to respect for privacy", this recent incident was a "lesson in humility" for Hollande.

"All of this is disastrous for the image of the presidential function," he said on national TV. "You only have to read the international headlines."


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