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France

French President Hollande confirms split with first lady Trierweiler

Francois Hollande has said he has ended his partnership with journalist Valerie Trierweiler, two weeks after a magazine published details of his amorous liaisons with actress Julie Gayet.

Stressing that he was speaking in a private capacity, not as president, Francois Hollande told French news agency AFP on Saturday that he and Valerie Trierweiler had separated.

"I wish to make it known that I have ended my partnership with Valerie Trierweiler," Hollande told AFP by phone. The popular Le Parisien daily had carried a story on its website headlined "C'est fini!" (It's over) earlier on Saturday.

Trierweiler departs for a charity work appointment in India on Sunday, her first such engagement since news of Hollande's relationship with actress Julie Gayet was published by leading celebrity and gossip magazine Closer. The 48-year-old journalist checked into hospital with fatigue shortly after Closer went to press, then spent another week convalescing at a presidential residence near Versailles.

President Hollande, who met with Pope Francis in Rome on Friday, had lived together with Trierweiler since 2007 although the pair never married. Still, Trierweiler worked as France's first lady, largely stopping her journalistic work to maintain an office with a budget of roughly 20,000 euros ($27,350) per month.

The former first lady had maintained silence for the most part since Hollande and Gayet's relationship was made public, only thanking her supporters in a single message on Twitter after leaving hospital on January 19.

Post-pope, pre-Obama

Hollande had pledged to clarify his personal status prior to a February 11 visit to the White House, after ducking the issue at a major start-of-year journalists' briefing where he unveiled plans for a "third way" for France's struggling economy.

This switch to more pro-business policies, often compared to policies from center-left leaders like Gerhard Schröder, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and former French President Francois Mitterand, marks quite a diversion from Hollande's 2012 campaign platform.

Despite suffering from the lowest approval ratings of any sitting modern French president, a fate Trierweiler shared as first lady, the personal revelations appear not to have negatively affected his public image. Previous surveys suggested that the vast majority of voters considered the issue a private matter - although one poll published on the day of Hollande's papal visit on Friday found that two-thirds of participants believed the news had damaged France's image abroad.

Hollande leaves France on an official visit to Turkey on Monday.

msh/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

DW.DE