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French prime minister undergoes surgery

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin will remain hospitalized for several days after having gallstones removed Saturday, officials said.
/ Source: Reuters

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin will remain hospitalized for several days after having gallstones removed Saturday, officials said.

The 56-year-old prime minister was admitted to the Val de Grace military hospital in Paris late Saturday morning after his gall bladder became acutely inflamed.

“The operation was carried out without any particular difficulty. Post-operation procedures were straightforward. Hospitalization will be in the order of several days,” the ministry of defense said in a statement.

A source from the prime minister’s office said Raffarin will be in charge of the state when President Jacques Chirac leaves for Moscow on Sunday night for celebrations of the 1945 victory over Adolf Hitler.

Raffarin, who earlier canceled a trip to the eastern city of Reims to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, will not, however, attend celebrations in Paris on Sunday.

On Tuesday, he was due to meet European Parliament President Josep Borrell in Strasbourg, but there was no question of the prime minister traveling by plane or car in the coming days, the source said.

Raffarin’s popularity hit a new low in an opinion poll published Friday, deepening doubts that he will keep his job after this month’s referendum on the European Union constitution.

High unemployment and discontent with economic reforms have stoked opposition to the constitution, which the government supports, and contributed to the decline in the prime minister’s fortunes since he took office three years ago.

There is speculation in the French media that will Chirac dismiss him after the May 29 referendum.