UK & World News

  • 15 January 2014, 2:22

Francois Hollande Faces Media Over Affair Claims

Francois Hollande has admitted that he is going through a "painful time" in his personal life as he faces allegations of an affair with a French actress.

The French president was speaking for the first time since the publication of tabloid photographs in a French gossip magazine said to show him spending a night with Julie Gayet.

Mr Hollande declined an opportunity to confirm whether his partner Valerie Trierweiler was still the first lady of France, when asked directly by a journalist.

He said: "Each of us on our personal lives can go through difficult periods and that's our case ... this is a painful time.

"But private matters should be dealt with privately and this is neither the time nor the place to do so."

He said that he would clarify the situation before a visit to the US in February.á

Following controversy about the cost to the public purse of the first lady, he said that state funds spent on the role should be made public and "as small as possible."

The first lady doesn't have formal status in France, but in practice they have an office in the presidential palace and small staff.

The president said he was "totally indignant" about the story in Closer magazine, which he said threatened France's principle of "respect for private life and people's dignity".

MsáTrierweiler was taken to hospital in a state of shock over the claims but she is reportedly prepared to forgive Mr Hollande.

The president said she was "resting" but would not give any more information on her condition.

The issue earlier reached the floor of the French parliament as a leading figure from the opposition UMP party accused the president of taking unreasonable risks with his security.

Christian Jacob said: "The president is not a normal citizen during his term. He is the chief of our armies. He is the keystone of our institutions. His protection should not suffer from any amateurism.

"The president should be aware of the level of responsibility that he exercises, be aware that his role is greater than his person, and be aware that he incarnates the image of France in the eyes of the world."

Asked whether his security was compromised, MráHollande said, "My security is assured everywhere, and at any moment. When I travel officially ... and when I travel on a private basis, I have protection that is less suffocating. But I am protected everywhere."

He left open the possibility of suing Closer for the publication.

Photographer Sebastian Valiela said he was surprised at the lack of security for MráHollande, whose government has been repeatedly threatened by al Qaeda.

"To go to the rendezvous with Julie Gayet, he was taking some risks," he told RTL. "As soon as he got into the apartment, his guards left."

The president was holding an annual New Year's news conference with journalists in Paris to discuss the economy and plans to offer French businesses tax cuts aimed at reducing unemployment.

He decided not to tackle the affair claims head-on, proceeding instead with the launch of measures, including cuts of ú42bná(?50bn) over three years to public spending designed to kick-start the country's economy.

He announced the phasing out of employer family welfare charges for businesses and self-employed workers by 2017 as part of a plan to make France produce "more and better".

Laying out his economic "responsibility pact," he said companies would be expected in return to commit to targets for job creation and training, to be negotiated with trade unions and the government.

Mr Hollandeásaid the public spending cuts over the years 2015-17 would be equal to 4% of overall public spending.

The Socialist president came to office in 2012 on pledges to avoid the painful austerity measures endured by other EU countries, but his poll ratings have plunged as the economy has failed to bounce back.

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