15 Jan 2014

Hollande rebuffs questions on affair claim

7:25 am on 15 January 2014

French president Francois Hollande has refused to clarify whether his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, is still France's first lady.

At his first news conference since a magazine accused him of having a secret affair with an actress, Mr Hollande acknowledged only that he was facing difficulties in his private life.

Francois Hollande: "We are in this for the long haul."

Francois Hollande: "We are in this for the long haul." Photo: AFP

But he refused to answer questions over the allegations saying "private matters should be dealt with privately".

Mr Hollande has promised to clarify the situation before an official visit to the United States next month on which Ms Trierweiler had been expected to accompany him.

She is in hospital after being admitted suffering from shock, her aides say.

The news conference was a long-planned event aimed at unveiling policies to help France's struggling economy.

The BBC reports the recurrent criticism of economic policy in France is that government is too big and the burdens of tax and regulation - especially in the jobs market - are excessive.

In a speech lasting more than half an hour the president addressed the main areas where business wants to see reform.

He outlined ideas to combat unemployment - a key pledge in his campaign - and promised to slash €50 billion in public spending over three years.

The president also gave more details on a proposed "responsibility pact" that would introduce tax cuts for firms in return for a commitment to hire more workers.