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Jacques Chirac home after brief hospital stay

AFP/The Local · 17 Feb 2014, 21:01

Published: 17 Feb 2014 21:01 GMT+01:00

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Jacques Chirac, who has been in poor health for several years, was briefly hospitalized on Monday near Paris for a suspected flare up of gout, sources close to the former French president said.

An ambulance under police escort took the 81-year-old from his flat overlooking the Seine to the American Hospital of Paris in the plush suburb of Neuilly.

"He came to the hospital to undergo a test after which he left," the hospital management told AFP. "Jacques Chirac is back home," a member of his inner circle said, explaining that the former French leader had had a suspected "acute episode of gout... very painful but not serious."

Chirac, who suffered a stroke in 2005, underwent successful kidney surgery in December.

He was France's president from 1995 to 2007 and twice previously served as prime minister. He is considered one of the most popular politicians in recent French history.

Chirac's wife Bernadette said in January she thought her husband would probably never speak in public again because he experienced frequent memory loss.

She said he received many visitors and read books to keep his mind sharp, and added that she did not believe the former president suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

"Honestly, I don't think so. I certainly hope this ordeal will not be forced on us... He doesn't really show the symptoms although his memory is sometimes failing," she said.

The last time Chirac appeared in public was in November when he attended the ceremony for the award his foundation gave to Denis Mukwege, who set up a clinic for rape victims in his native Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chirac is perhaps best known on the international stage for infuriating the United States by opposing the 2003 war in Iraq.

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His appeal to the French public was undiminished by a conviction for embezzlement and misuse of public funds during his terms as mayor of Paris.

A Paris court ruled in December 2011 that he had colluded in the creation of 28 fake jobs for party workers and sentenced him to a two-year suspended prison term.

By then, Chirac was already suffering from degenerative neurological disorder and, with the agreement of prosecutors, he was spared the humiliation of appearing in court.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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