PARIS – French President Jacques Chirac (search) missed his first weekly Cabinet meeting since 1995 as he remained hospitalized Wednesday with an eye problem.
Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope (search) said Chirac was "in very good form" and confirmed that he would be released from the hospital before week's end.
The government has been criticized for allegedly guarding details of Chirac's condition like a state secret. Doctors and politicians alike scrutinized the few words issued in the medical updates, and the left-leaning daily Liberation (search) ran a story headlined "State health secrets," which said the updates were too rare and confusing.
In Chirac's place, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin presided over the weekly gathering of ministers, who met at the premier's residence instead of the presidential Elysee Palace.
Earlier, Villepin met with Chirac for an hour at Val de Grace military hospital.
Chirac was hospitalized Friday night for what doctors said was a "small vascular accident" that troubled his vision in one eye.
The 72-year-old president spoke Tuesday by telephone with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the latest sign that the French leader is determined to work as his health improves.
It was still not clear whether Chirac would make his planned Sept. 13-15 trip to New York for a U.N. summit. Cope said details about Chirac's schedule would come out when he is released from the hospital.
The president of France's Senate — the official who would step in for Chirac if he were unable to carry out his functions — said there was no cause for alarm.
"The president of the republic is doing well. He had a small health incident, as anyone can have, but with the president we take some extra precautions," Christian Poncelet told France-Info radio.