French President meets Indian PM

French President Jacques Chirac was back at work Monday following a weeklong hospital stay, meeting India's prime minister, who confirmed the purchase of six French submarines and 43 Airbus planes.

Chirac appeared in good form and went out of his way to show it, according Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the honor of greeting him on the front steps of the French presidential Elysee Palace.

Once inside, Chirac also took the rare step of speaking to reporters allowed in for the start of the talks, the AP reports.

"I am delighted that the prime minister confirms to us today the decision by India concerning the purchases of six Scorpene submarines and 43 Airbus," Chirac said.

He called the Indian orders, which had previously been announced by Indian officials, a sign "of trust, friendship and cooperation."

The meeting was the first official engagement for 72-year-old Chirac since his release Friday from hospital following a weeklong stay for what doctors said was a blood vessel problem that affected his eyesight.

Singh praised Chirac, saying he holds him "in the highest esteem as a world statesman."

Singh was in Paris en route to New York for a U.N. summit of world leaders where he plans to push for a permanent seat on the Security Council and discuss civilian nuclear energy cooperation.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said he had worked through the weekend with Chirac to prepare for the New York summit. Villepin will attend the summit in Chirac's place after doctors advised the French leader to limit his activities for this week and avoid air travel for six weeks.

"The president is applying himself to his job," Villepin told RMC-Info radio.

The government has yet to detail the nature of Chirac's illness.

Chirac was hospitalized Sept. 2 after suffering a "small vascular accident" that impaired vision in one eye, doctors said without ever fully elaborating.

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