Ailing Mitterrand determined to serve out term

Francois Mitterrand celebrated his 78th birthday, the last before his presidential mandate ends in May, with a family dinner at the Elysee Palace yesterday.

The French President's official functions have been reduced in the past few weeks to allow him to have chemotherapy for prostate cancer. Yesterday he presided over the weekly cabinet meeting in the morning and presented Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in the afternoon.

Last July, Mr Mitterrand underwent a second operation in just under two years for his condition. Since then, rumours have abounded.

One of the most recent was that Rene Monory, who as president of the Senate would have to take over the reins of state as interim president in the event of serious illness or a resignation, was asked this month to stand by because surgeons were considering a third operation.

Mr Mitterrand, whose dinner with his family also marked the 50th anniversary tomorrow of his marriage to Danielle, has conceded the gravity of his condition while expressing determination to serve out his second seven- year mandate to the end.

One week this month, Mr Mitterrand had only two official engagements. In rare public appearances, he has looked wan and tired.

His flair for political intrigue seems to have diminished sharply. While the conservative government coalition, particularly the dominant Gaullist RPR party, indulged in a bitter dispute in the run-up to the presidential elections, mainly a battle between Edouard Balladur, the Prime Minister, and Jacques Chirac, the RPR president, Mr Mitterrand said only that he was more 'interested than amused' by the quarrel.

Previously, the President, known for what the French call phrases assassines, would have used his talents to the full to increase his conservative rivals' discomfort.

Mr Mitterrand's past few weeks have been marred by controversy over his role in the Second World War, when he worked for the Vichy regime, before he joined the Resistance. Much of the detail came from Mr Mitterrand himself, who gave material to a historian writing about his youth.

On his health, one friend who sees the President regularly, said that while his condition was serious, 'it is often will-power that wins out in such cases. He still has all his faculties and he has proved his determination time and again.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy