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French president says it's over; first lady leaves residence

January 27 2014, 09:30

French President Francois Hollande and the first lady parted ways Saturday, with the leader declaring it's over and his partner of several years bidding farewell to the staff of the presidential residence, cnn reports.

The breakup occurred in the wake of a media account earlier this month about Hollande allegedly having an affair with actress Julie Gayet.

Hollande told a French news outlet Saturday he is ending his relationship with his partner, Valerie Trierweiler.

"I wish to make it known that I have ended my shared life (partnership) with Valerie Trierweiler," Hollande is quoted as saying to Agence France-Presse.

Trierweiler sent a goodbye message Saturday via Twitter to the staff at the presidential palace.

"All my gratitude goes to the extraordinary people at the Élysées. I will never forget the devotion or emotion at the time of leaving," she wrote.

Hollande's private life has been the subject of global headlines since the French magazine Closer claimed this month he was having a two-year affair with Gayet.

Speculation about the split swirled Saturday after a French national weekly reported that Hollande was expected to announce his separation from Trierweiler on Saturday, a day before Trierweiler travels to India. The story was picked up by several French media outlets.

But the French presidency initially denied the report that an announcement would be made. "It is a rumor that circulated on the Internet today. There is absolutely no confirmation of the publication of a statement today," the palace press officer told CNN.

U.S. trip planned for February

Hollande has not confirmed or denied the alleged affair but did threaten legal action. At his first press conference of the year, Hollande said he and France's first lady were going through "painful moments."

The allegations had left Trierweiler's position in some doubt, namely ahead of a planned trip to Washington in February.

She has been Hollande's partner for several years. An arts columnist for weekly magazine Paris Match, she is not married to Hollande but assumed the role of first lady at official functions following his election in May 2012.

Her attorney, Frederique Giffard, told French daily newspaper Le Figaro this week that the couple were working to issue a "clarification" concerning their relationship.

Last weekend, Trierweiler left the hospital where she'd spent a week being treated for stress and fatigue, Paris Match magazine reported. The same magazine also said she would recover for "several days" in an official residence in Versailles.

Hollande, 59, has seen his personal approval ratings plummet since his election, although this has been attributed to dissatisfaction with his leadership rather than disapproval of his private life.

A recent survey by French pollster Ifop with Le Journal du Dimanche found that more than 80% of respondents had not changed their opinion of the President based on the allegations of an affair.

Hollande has four children from a previous relationship with Segolene Royal, a senior member of his Socialist Party and a 2007 presidential candidate. Royal announced their separation just after she lost the 2007 election to Nicolas Sarkozy.

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