French President Jacques Chirac has been hospitalized after suffering a blood vessel problem in his eye, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Saturday.
Officials said Chirac would cancel several of this week's appointments, and while supporters played down the severity of the situation, the surprise hospitalization was likely to trigger questions about possible changes in the French political landscape that Chirac has dominated for a decade.
Chirac, 72, was alert and consulting with advisers after being taken to a Paris military hospital Friday evening, de Villepin said after visiting the president for about an hour Saturday. The president was in "good form," de Villepin said.
Chirac's schedule for the week had included meetings with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Germany on Tuesday and with Prince Albert II of Monaco on Friday. De Villepin will sit in for Chirac at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the president's office said.
The president was "hospitalized for tests after a circulatory problem in the eye," said Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. Doctors said such a problem could range from a ruptured blood vessel to a stroke, which is often connected to vision trouble. More than 80 percent of strokes are caused by blockage in an artery carrying blood to the brain.
Schroeder, a longtime friend of Chirac, said news of the hospitalization "worried me greatly." He wrote Chirac a letter saying, "I very much hope that you can soon fully resume the business of government and we can hold our planned meeting as soon as possible."