Chirac's wife sympathises with French first lady over Hollande affair

PARIS - France's former first lady Bernadette Chirac, whose husband Jacques had confessed to a roving eye, on Wednesday expressed sympathy for Valerie Trierweiler after revelations of President Francois Hollande's affair with an actress.

The 80-year-old told Europe 1 radio that being First Lady and always in the limelight was not easy.

"You know it's quite difficult," Chirac said. "I loved it...but I was lucky to be the mayor of Paris's wife for 18 years, the wife of the prime minister for four years and for 10 years the wife of a minister."

Jacques Chirac had confessed to his weakness for women in 2007, shortly before leaving office, saying: "There have been women I have loved a lot, as discreetly as possible."

Bernadette Chirac said her thoughts were with Hollande's partner Trierweiler, who is recovering in a presidential retreat in Versailles west of Paris following a week's stay in hospital prompted by the scandal over the president's love life.

"I really hope it's only a case of tiredness," Chirac said of Trierweiler's hospitalisation, adding that she "shares her sorrow".

Trierweiler on Saturday left the Paris hospital where she had been admitted on January 10 suffering from nervous exhaustion and low blood pressure for La Lanterne in Versailles.

Hollande said he would clarify Trierweiler's position before an official visit to the United States in February after revelations by French glossy Closer that he was involved in a love affair with 41-year-old film actress Julie Gayet.