Raffarin recovering aftergall bladder removed

8th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 8 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was recovering in hospital Sunday after emergency gall bladder surgery, taking the unpopular premier off the campaign trail just three weeks before a crucial referendum on the EU constitution.

PARIS, May 8 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was recovering in hospital Sunday after emergency gall bladder surgery, taking the unpopular premier off the campaign trail just three weeks before a crucial referendum on the EU constitution.  

Raffarin was rushed to Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris on Saturday, suffering from acute inflammation of the gall bladder, and later underwent successful surgery "without any particular difficulty", the hospital said.  

A medical source told AFP on Sunday that his gall bladder had in fact been removed.  

A source close to the 56-year-old prime minister said Sunday that his condition was improving: "All is well, his voice is clear, he had a good night. He's resting in bed."  

The source said Raffarin could be discharged late Monday or early Tuesday.  

Raffarin's condition has forced him to cancel several weekend appearances at ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, as well as several EU constitution campaign stops early in the week.  

French voters will cast their ballots on May 29 in a referendum on the landmark EU charter, which aims to simplify decision-making in the expanded 25-member European Union.  

All 25 EU member states must approve the constitutional treaty for it to come into effect. If such a heavyweight EU member as France were to reject the constitution, many observers believe the treaty would be stopped in its tracks.  

After weeks of opinion polls showing opponents of the constitution in the lead, the tables turned last week, with a string of surveys showing the "yes" camp gaining significant ground, and even coming out in front a few times.  

President Jacques Chirac, who called Raffarin early Sunday to convey his best wishes, made a strong plea for the treaty last week in his second television appearance since the start of the campaign.  

Chirac's ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) is campaigning for the constitution alongside the opposition Socialists (PS) - divided on the issue - and the Greens.  

In the "no" camp are the far-right National Front, the Communist and Trotskyist left, half the Socialist party, a smattering of UMP dissidents, and the nationalist Movement for France (MPF) of Philippe de Villiers.  

Raffarin, whose popularity rating hit an all-time low of 22 percent last week, was to push for a "yes" vote on Monday at Europe Day ceremonies as well as in a live spot on state-owned France 2 television.  

On Tuesday, he was due in Strasbourg to meet European Parliament speaker Josep Borrell. All three engagements have been cancelled, according to Raffarin's office.  

Upon his release from hospital, the prime minister was to follow a "light work schedule", aides said Sunday, calling into question his participation in two UMP campaign rallies with party leader Nicolas Sarkozy later this week.  

In an opinion poll published Friday in the magazine Valeurs actuelles, 54 percent of those surveyed said they wanted Chirac to replace Raffarin after the May 29 referendum. Sarkozy led the list of those named as possible successors.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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