Economy

Hollande refuses to take question on love life

LONDON (AP) — French President Francois Hollande wants to talk about his country's work with the U.K. on a new combat drone, a multibillion pound (dollar) deal which could see France help build new nuclear power plants in the U.K., and thorny questions about his British counterpart's contentious relationship to the European Union.

Just don't ask him about his love life. Quizzed during a news conference at an English air base as to whether his reported philandering had turned France into a "joke," the 59-year-old French leader deadpanned.

"I'm afraid I decline to answer," he said. British journalists had long been looking forward to Hollande's appearance, which comes less than a week after the French president officially ended his relationship with longtime girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler. Annoyed by what was described in the U.K. as the deference of France's media, British reporters had been itching to quiz Hollande about his reported trysts, which allegedly involved motorbike-borne visits to meet with glamorous actress Julie Gayet.

Instead they got an all-too-sober discussion of the enduring relationship between France and Britain, which bore fruit Friday in the form of a nearly $200 million agreement to develop an armed combat drone, approval of an investment deal for nuclear power in Britain which Holland valued at 16 billion pounds (more than $26 billion), and 15 million pounds earmarked for joint investment on space-related programs.

Hollande was speaking alongside Prime Minister David Cameron at England's Brize Norton air base. Both are due to talk about European integration — and Cameron's stated desire to renegotiate some aspects of the country's relationship to the EU — over a pub lunch.

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