Mitterrand has prostate operation

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The Independent Online
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President Francois Mitterrand underwent a prostate operation yesterday. A medical bulletin said the operation passed off normally and that his condition was satisfactory.

Medical sources said Mr Mitterrand, who will be 76 next month, would probably stay in the Cochin hospital in Paris for a week. Politically, this will take him out of circulation for the remainder of the campaign leading up to the 20 September referendum on ratification of the Maastricht European Union treaty.

Given that the President was conscious soon after the operation and was only in convalescence, his condition posed no constitutional problems. It did mean, however, that Pierre Beregovoy, the Prime Minister, would have to chair next Wednesday's weekly cabinet meeting.

The decision to operate was taken on Thursday and the President was admitted to hospital that evening, officials said. Mr Mitterrand's problem was diagnosed shortly after he had lunch at the Elysee Palace with Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister. But news of his condition was kept secret until the operation, carried out by Professor Adolphe Steg, was over. The medical bulletin said there had been no complications.

It was the first time that Mr Mitterrand had undergone surgery since he was elected President in 1981. He undergoes regular health checks whose results are published. In 1964, Charles de Gaulle underwent a similar operation when he was head of state.

The significance of Mr Mitterrand's absence from the political scene over the next week will probably be minimal. On Thursday evening, around the time he was being admitted to hospital, official sources said written replies he had given to questions about the Maastricht campaign submitted by three European newspapers, including the Independent on Sunday, were intended to be his final word to the media before the vote.