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'Don't worry about me' says France's ex-First Lady

Valerie Trierweiler, former companion of French President Francois Hollande, arrives at the international airport in Mumbai January 27, 2014
Valerie Trierweiler, former companion of French President Francois Hollande, arrives at the international airport in Mumbai January 27, 2014

By Aditi Shah

MUMBAI (Reuters) - France's former first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, said on Monday she was doing fine after her split from President Francois Hollande, telling reporters during a trip to India that she felt "useful" doing charity work.

The break-up of the couple, who were not married, was confirmed on Saturday by Hollande, who said in a curt statement he had "ended his partnership" with the 48-year-old journalist.

That announcement came less than three weeks after the tabloid Closer set off a media storm by publishing photos of what it said was Hollande, 59, making nocturnal visits to the apartment of French actress Julie Gayet, 41.

Closer's pictures of a helmeted figure, arriving and leaving on the back of a scooter, drew mockery from critics who called it an embarrassing vaudeville.

Trierweiler, who spent eight days in hospital after news broke of the alleged affair, followed by a week in seclusion, was in India with the charity Action Against Hunger.

In her first public comments since the scandal broke, Trierweiler did not mention the break-up but gave a tongue-in-cheek thank you to the French journalists who crowded the press conference for their "interest in malnutrition."

"I feel very well, it feels good to be here," said Trierweiler, when asked about her health. "I have the impression I'm being useful for something."

"Don't worry about me," said Trierweiler, dressed in a bright pink blouse.

UNWELCOME DISTRACTION

Trierweiler, a columnist for Paris Match magazine, had been in a relationship with Hollande since 2006. After his election in May 2012, she assumed the unofficial role of "first lady" and had an office at the Elysee Palace with a budget of roughly 20,000 euros ($27,400) per month, while continuing to write.

News of Hollande's alleged affair - which he has neither confirmed nor denied - has not worsened his record low approval ratings, but has distracted attention from a series of business-friendly policies aimed at reviving the economy.

Hollande is due to travel alone to the United States to visit Barack Obama early next month. Allies said his announcement should put an end to the media scrutiny of his personal life.

Still, some have criticized the way in which he announced the break-up, with some politicians and journalists calling Hollande callous in publicly repudiating his longtime partner.

"More like a pink slip than a break-up letter," conservative politician Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told iTele.

Asked about her track record as first lady, Trierweiler - whom polls showed to be deeply unpopular with the public - said it was not for her to judge.

"I was there for 19 months. It gave me the opportunity to meet new people and maybe even discover a part of myself that I didn't know existed," said Trierweiler.

She said she did not know what her future held, but that she would continue to do humanitarian work.

"I think that all together, we can do something, each in his or her own way," she said. "That's what I'll continue to do, whatever happens."

($1 = 0.7307 euros)

(Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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