Don't count Chirac out yet: aides

6th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 6 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac was said to be in good shape in hospital Tuesday, as aides angrily rebutted newspaper speculation over the political fall-out of his sudden illness.

PARIS, Sept 6 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac was said to be in good shape in hospital Tuesday, as aides angrily rebutted newspaper speculation over the political fall-out of his sudden illness.

On his fourth day of treatment for an eye disorder linked to a "minor vascular incident", the 72-year-old president was visited at the Val de Grâce hospital in Paris by his wife Bernadette, as well as by his chief foreign affairs adviser Maurice Gourdault-Montagne.

Doctors said that the damage to his vision was limited and that Chirac would be out of hospital after a few more days of observation.

"It is a small haematoma, which explains the isolated and limited nature of his visual impairment. The clinical indications are on the decline, which means he is making very favourable progress," Anne Robert, spokeswoman for the army medical service, said late Monday.

"The president of the republic is resting and under simple medical observation. I confirm that he should be out in a few days," Robert said.

Chirac was admitted on Friday evening and news of his hospitalisation was made public mid-day on Saturday.

Cardiologists consulted by AFP agreed that the president had most likely suffered a "transient ischemic attack" affecting his eye that occurred when a mini blood clot lodged in his retinal artery causing restriction to his field of vision.

Chirac's agenda for the week has been cleared, and the regular cabinet meeting on Wednesday was to be chaired exceptionally by de Villepin.

Supporters of the president rejected charges that his true condition was being deliberately kept secret, and said that speculation over his political future was grossly premature.

"At no moment has there been a power vacuum. The continuity of the state has been assured because the president has received the prime minister, issued instructions, signed decrees, continuid to fulfil his mission," said Chirac-loyalist Jean-Louis Debré, speaker of the National Assembly.

Press commentators have said that Chirac's illness raises for the first time the question of his long-term health, and means that in the last 18 months of his term in office attention will increasingly focus on his political replacement.

The medical scare makes it unlikely that Chirac will run for a third term in 2007, commentators said, so a fierce succession battle can be expected between de Villepin -- Chirac's chosen heir -- and Nicolas Sarkozy, the outspoken and highly ambitious interior minister and head of Chirac's own party the UMP.

Debré also rejected the accusation made in Le Monde newspaper that the details of the president's health were masked in France by a "cult of secrecy that would have done the Kremlin proud in the former Soviet Union."

The newspaper asked why it took 12 hours before even Villepin was informed of Chirac's illness. But Debré said there had been "complete transparency."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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