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French leader Hollande ducks questions on claims of affair with actress

Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images

French President Francois Hollande and his partner Valerie Trierweiler, pictured here in September. An aide said Trierweiler remained in hospital on Tuesday and "needs to recover after the shock she suffered."

French President Francois Hollande spoke of "painful moments" Tuesday but refused to comment directly on allegations that he conducted a nocturnal affair with a younger actress.

"Everyone in their personal life can face trials,” he told reporters at his annual January news conference, which was supposed to have been about his plans to revive the French economy but which was overshadowed by claims of his infidelity.

“These are painful moments. But I have one principle, and that is that personal life should be treated privately, respecting each person's intimacy," Hollande said.

He said the position of his long-term partner, Valerie Treiweiller, as France's First Lady would be resolved before a planned visit to President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., in February.

Trierweiler, was admitted to hospital after the alleged scandal broke on Jan. 10, suffering from what French media later reported to be severe depression.

Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP - Getty Images

French actress Julie Gayet, 41, was accused by Closer magazine of having late-night meetings with Francois Hollande.

The role of first lady in France is more informal than the United States, but some of her activities are funded by the taxpayer.

Hollande, 59, spoke of his "indignation” at the publication by Closer magazine of pictures that it said showed the president being taken around Paris on a scooter in order to spend the night at the apartment of a 41-year-old actress, Julie Gayet.

“I will not respond to any questions today on this subject,” Hollande told reporters.

Trierweiler’s office told Reuters she would remain in hospital for the time being. "She needs to recover after the shock she suffered. She needs peace and quiet," an aide said.

Tuesday’s media event echoed an earlier scandal when Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, found his January 2008 news conference hijacked by questions about his divorce and new romance with singer Carla Bruni, whom he subsequently married.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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