Sun, Sep 11, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Chirac out of hospital but cancels planned UN trip


French President Jacques Chirac declared himself in good shape on Friday as he left a military hospital after seven days, but took doctors' advice by dropping plans to attend next week's UN summit of world leaders and also postponed a planned trip to Egypt.

The 72-year-old leader's place will be taken at the UN by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, his office announced on Friday. Villepin was roundly applauded at the UN for his 2003 speech against the invasion of Iraq.

Chirac was hospitalized Sept. 2 after suffering a "small vascular accident" that impaired vision in one eye, medical officials said without ever fully elaborating.

On leaving Val de Grace military hospital, Chirac told reporters he was advised to limit his activities for the next week.

The hospital, however, provided a different version of its advice, saying it had recommended as much rest as possible over the next two weeks and that Chirac avoid air travel for six weeks.

Otherwise, Chirac's health was "very satisfying," a statement said.

Chirac walked unassisted out of the hospital, chatting with first lady Bernadette Chirac and doctors, whose work he praised. The president's aides said his vision was still slightly troubled but that the condition had improved this week.

Chirac, however, insisted that he felt fine.

"I feel ... in very good shape," he told reporters after strolling several hundred meters to the hospital gate. "I was starting to grow anxious to get out ... I started to find the time long, especially at lunchtime."

He did not give details of his medical condition -- despite criticism that the hospital and his government had provided incomplete information, fueling questions and rumors.

Medical experts not involved in Chirac's treatment suggested a range of possible problems, from minor -- a ruptured blood vessel in a retina -- to a stroke.

The president, known as a hard worker who keeps a full schedule, said that doctors recommended that he "be reasonable" for a week.

The Elysee Palace said Chirac will progressively resume his activities and will keep a meeting on Monday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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