A file picture taken on June 6, 2013 shows French President Francois Hollande (L) and his former partner Valerie Trierweiler (R) arriving at Tokyo's Haneda airport. --AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI
PARIS: French President Francois Hollande on Saturday told AFP he has split with his longstanding partner Valerie Trierweiler after his affair with an actress nearly 20 years his junior.
The announcement came after a day of rumours in the French media that Hollande would formally announce the rupture on Saturday, on the eve of a visit by Trierweiler to India for charity work.
Saying he was speaking as a private individual and not as head of state as the matter concerned his private life, Hollande told AFP over the phone: "I wish to make it known that I have ended my partnership with Valerie Trierweiler."
Trierweiler, 48, had been convalescing at a presidential residence in Versailles outside Paris after leaving hospital last Saturday, where she was treated for what was described as fatigue brought on by press revelations of Hollande's affair with 41-year-old actress Julie Gayet.
"I extend all my gratitude to the fantastic Elysee staff. I will never forget their dedication nor the emotional farewell," Trierweiler said on Twitter Saturday.
She is due to fly to Mumbai on Sunday for a charity trip organised by French relief group Action Against Hunger (ACF), in her first public appearance since the scandal broke two weeks ago.
An ACF spokeswoman told AFP the trip "was confirmed this morning by Ms. Trierweiler's office".
"Hollande, who took the initiative for the separation, wanted to make it official before Valerie Trierweiler's departure for India," the Journal du Dimanche weekly said on its website.
Hollande, 59, announced his separation from Segolene Royal, a senior member of his Socialist party and a presidential candidate in 2007, just after she lost the election to Nicolas Sarkozy.
He then started living openly with Trierweiler. Although she is not married to Hollande, she assumed the role of First Lady at official functions after Hollande's election in 2012.
After Hollande's confirmation of the split, Le Parisien daily said on its website that Trierweiler had left the presidential retreat near the chateau of Versailles on Saturday for their apartment in Paris's middle-class 15th arrondissement.
The Journal du Dimanche said the couple had worked out the terms of the split at a lunch on Thursday.
Hollande had promised at a news conference earlier this month that he would publicly define what relationship, if any, he and Trierweiler had before a February 11 state visit to the United States.
US President Barack Obama "looks forward to seeing President Hollande as planned," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told AFP on Saturday, without further comment.
Hollande's announcement comes after a spat between Trierweiler and her lawyer Frederique Giffard, who said Thursday that her client was aware that a "clarification" on her tangled situation was due.
But Trierweiler reacted furiously to the lawyer's remarks and chastened Giffard for speaking without her permission.
Trierweiler is a glamorous, twice-divorced career journalist who has three children of her own and has been Hollande's partner for the best part of a decade.
She emerged into the spotlight before he was elected president, and warned that she would not be a wallflower, saying in April 2012: "I have character, they cannot muzzle me."
That was quickly proven when Trierweiler tweeted her support in legislative elections for an independent rival of Royal, with whom the First Lady did not have a warm relationship.
The tweet went down badly in France, and Trierweiler's reputation suffered, with many deeming her somewhat arrogant. A recent poll said she was the least-liked French First Lady in modern history.
After Hollande's election, Trierweiler cut down on her work at the French magazine Paris-Match and engaged in charitable activities.
Trierweiler's only comment since French glossy Closer on January 10 splashed photos of Hollande arriving for alleged trysts at a flat near the Elysee Palace on a scooter had been a tweet thanking her supporters after she was released from hospital.
Hollande is the second French president to split from his partner while in office. In 2007, his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy divorced his wife Cecilia and married former supermodel and singer Carla Bruni the following year.
Hollande, who is France's least popular president according to opinion polls, has never denied an affair with Gayet but has so far steadfastly refused to answer questions about his love life. - AFP