France's Hollande visits 'first lady' in hospital: source

PARIS Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:04am EST

French President Francois Hollande reacts as he accompanies a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French President Francois Hollande reacts as he accompanies a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande paid a first visit on Thursday to his partner Valerie Trierweiler since she was hospitalized in need of rest after reports he has a mistress, a source in his office said.

The source declined to give further details about the visit, which came amid questions over whether the 48-year-old Trierweiler will still enjoy the unofficial title of France's first lady and accompany Hollande on state visits.

Opponents of Hollande, whose failure to turn around the French economy has already made him the most unpopular leader of modern-day France, have accused him of bringing the role of president into disrepute.

The 59-year-old Socialist has neither confirmed nor denied the magazine reports of an affair with film actress Julie Gayet, saying only that he had experienced "difficulties" in his personal life and that he would clarify his relationship with Trierweiler before a scheduled Feb 9-11 trip to Washington.

Trierweiler was initially due to have left Paris' Pitie Salpetriere hospital last weekend. Local media have quoted acquaintances of the former journalist saying she needs "peace and quiet" to recover from the shock of an episode that has made world headlines.

Gayet, 41, issued a statement late on Thursday to deny media reports she was pregnant. She is seeking damages from celebrity magazine Closer, which last week published what it said were images of Hollande making a nocturnal visit to her pied-a-terre apartment in the upmarket eighth arrondissement of Paris.

Hollande has insisted on his right to a private life and pursued business largely as usual. On Tuesday he unveiled his economic reform plans for the rest of his five-year presidency and on Friday gave a keynote speech to French diplomats.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Gerard Bon; writing by Mark John; editing by Andrew Roche)

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