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French Leader Hollande Ducks Questions on Alleged Affair

French President Francois Hollande spoke of "painful moments" Tuesday but refused to comment directly on allegations that he conducted a nocturnal affair with a younger actress.

"Everyone in their personal life can face trials,” he told reporters at his annual January news conference, which was supposed to have been about his plans to revive the French economy but which was overshadowed by claims of his infidelity.

“These are painful moments. But I have one principle, and that is that personal life should be treated privately, respecting each person's intimacy," Hollande said.

He said the position his long-term partner, Valerie Treiweiller, as France's First Lady would be resolved before a planned visit to President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., in February.

Trierweiler, was admitted to hospital after the alleged scandal broke on Jan. 10, suffering from what French media later reported to be severe depression.

The role of first lady in France is more informal than the United States, but some of her activities are funded by the taxpayer.

Image: French actress Julie Gayet
French actress Julie Gayet, with whom French President Francois Hollande is reportedly having an affair, is pictured at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP - Getty Images

Hollande, 59, spoke of his "indignation” at the publication by Closer magazine of pictures that it said showed the president being taken around Paris on a scooter in order to spend the night at the apartment of a 41-year-old actress, Julie Gayet.

“I will not respond to any questions today on this subject,” Hollande told reporters.

Trierweiler’s office told Reuters she would remain in hospital for the time being. "She needs to recover after the shock she suffered. She needs peace and quiet," an aide said.

Tuesday’s media event echoed an earlier scandal when Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, found his January 2008 news conference hijacked by questions about his divorce and new romance with singer Carla Bruni, whom he subsequently married.

Reuters contributed to this report.