Hollande Defends Africa Strategy, His Right to Privacy

French President François Hollande at a news conference on Jan.14, 2014. /AP French President François Hollande at a news conference on Jan.14, 2014. /AP

French President François Hollande says European countries likely will offer military backing to France's operation in the conflict-torn Central African Republic, and he denies his country is going it alone in defusing crises overseas.

Hollande made the remarks in Paris Tuesday at a news conference that was overshadowed by reports about his personal life.

The president offered no deadline for the end of France's operation in the Central African Republic. But he said Paris will not meddle in the African country's internal politics as it tries to form a transitional government. 

"France is working with African countries in the region to ensure that the CAR eventually will be able to have the same kind of political transition -- including democratic elections -- as in Mali," he said. "I predict that other European Union countries will agree to humanitarian and military aid when EU foreign ministers meet next week."

France's Africa policy -- along with domestic issues like the economy, education and immigration -- dominated Hollande's lengthy, new year's conference with reporters.

Polls rate him as France's most unpopular president in recent history.  Many French think his government has not done enough to battle high unemployment and the struggling economy.

Hollande also has been dogged by reports of an alleged affair with French actress Julie Gayet. Hollande's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, was hospitalized on Friday after a tabloid published the allegations. "I am going through painful times in my personal life, but I have the right to privacy," Hollande said.

He did not respond specifically to the allegations or whether he will take legal action against the tabloid that reported them. Hollande outlined a more robust future for France, not only internationally, but also economically. He discussed a pro-business economic policy aimed at spurring growth and jobs, and he discussed his upcoming trip to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.

"The pope's moral authority may be helpful in finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis. The pontiff's insights might be useful on other issues like the Palestinian-Israeli talks and the 2015 climate change summit that will take place in France," he said.

VOA News / Jan. 16, 2014 08:17 KST