Chirac is doing well, say hospital doctors

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The Independent Online

The 72-year-old French President cancelled his appointments for a week after slipping discreetly into the hospital in Paris late on Friday following what his aides described as a "vascular accident" affecting his eyes.

"The President had a good night. His general condition and his tests are very satisfactory," the Val de Grace military hospital said in a statement, without giving further details.

It said M. Chirac would stay in the army teaching hospital, where French leaders are traditionally treated, for several days.

Medical experts say a "vascular accident" could involve bleeding or clotting in an artery or vein near the eye, leading to double vision or other eyesight problems. Most people recover but the doctor who treated M. Chirac's predecessor, the late Francois Mitterrand, for cancer has described it as a warning that he may need to slow down.

The illness is a blow for M. Chirac after a string of political defeats has left him looking isolated and barely able to contain a succession struggle in his own ranks. Anxious to portray him in command of government business, M. Chirac's office said he had received his top civil servant yesterday and had asked for updates on a fire in an apartment block in Parisearly yesterday morning.

There has been no mention of any temporary transfer of power. Under French law, the President of the Senate would take over if the President were incapacitated, however briefly.

The next weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday will however be chaired by the Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin.