French President Jacques Chirac leaves hospital looking relaxed

President Jacques Chirac, chatting amiably and looking relaxed, left a military hospital Friday after seven days and said doctors had advised him to limit his activities for another week. But he did not divulge details of his illness, leaving that mystery intact.

The Val de Grace military hospital provided a different version of its advice, saying it had recommended the 72-year-old leader get as much rest as possible over the next 15 days and avoid airplanes for six weeks. That would apparently rule out his plans to attend next week's U.N. summit in New York. The statement said that, otherwise, Chirac's health was "very satisfying."

Chirac appeared animated as he walked firmly out of the hospital, chatting with first lady Bernadette Chirac and doctors, whose work he praised.

"I feel, I tell you from the outset, in very good shape," Chirac told reporters after strolling several hundred meters (yards) to the hospital gate. "To hide nothing, I was starting to grow anxious to get out. That's a fact. I started to find the time long, especially at lunch time."

He did not give details of his medical condition, despite criticism that the hospital and his government had provided incomplete information, fueling questions and rumors. Chirac acted as though there was no issue, saying: "You know very exactly the reasons that led to my week in the hospital."

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

The president, known as a hard worker who keeps a full schedule, said doctors had recommended he "be reasonable" in the coming week.

"I'll try as much as possible to be," Chirac said. He did not specify whether that meant he would cancel his planned trip to New York next week for a U.N. summit, a key meeting bringing the world's leaders together.

With little to go on, doctors not involved in Chirac's treatment have suggested a range of possible problems, from minor _ a ruptured blood vessel in a retina _ to more serious _ a stroke.

The lack of information fed rumors, including one that the president's speech was impaired _ disproved by Chirac as he spoke in a firm but gravely voice to reporters for several minutes.

With television cameras trained on him, Chirac saluted the French people, adding: "I want to say that I am particularly happy, regardless of the high quality of care I enjoyed, to go home."

Throughout his hospital stay, officials downplayed the seriousness of the president's condition. Still, Chirac's hospitalization had considerable political fallout. It led to an intense debate about French leaders' tradition of keeping secret their medical problems.

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