Hollande and Julie Gayet 'affair going for two years'

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Media captionBBC's Chris Morris hears the views of residents in Tulle where the president forged his political career

The French gossip magazine Closer has published claims President Francois Hollande has been having an affair with actress Julie Gayet for two years.

It also printed more details of the alleged romance, which it says began during the 2012 presidential race.

Ms Gayet has announced she is suing Closer for breach of privacy.

Mr Hollande's official partner, Valerie Trierweiler, remains in hospital, where she was admitted after learning of the alleged affair a week ago.

'Turbulent romance'

In its latest revelations, Closer said the French president used a second apartment in the west of Paris to meet the 41-year-old actress.

It is claimed the pair snatched weekends together in the south of France, and that Mr Hollande made excuses to avoid a holiday in Greece last year with Ms Trierweiler, so he could travel instead to his Correze constituency with Ms Gayet.

The magazine said the president and Ms Gayet had been having a "turbulent romance" for two years - during and after Mr Hollande's election campaign.

The magazine did not publish any further photos despite earlier reports that it would.

Ms Gayet is seeking 50,000 euros (£41,000; $68,000) in damages and 4,000 euros in legal costs from the magazine.

If she wins, Closer will have to publish the legal verdict on its cover page, AFP reports.

Mr Hollande decided not to take legal action after first threatening to.

Flowers and chocolates

Ms Trierweiler - seemingly still keen to defend Mr Hollande's character - is said to have defended him following reports he had not visited her in hospital.

She phoned a journalist on Thursday to explain it was her doctors who had asked Mr Hollande not to attend, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris.

She said she is still too weak to stand - and that the president has sent flowers and chocolates in his absence, our correspondent adds.

In response to the reports, a source at the Elysee Palace said Mr Hollande was "not unhappy" about the hospital forbidding him to visit.

Meanwhile, French magazine Le Point has quoted a friend of Ms Trierweiler saying she had not tried to commit suicide but had taken "one pill too many".

Mr Hollande, 59, told reporters on Tuesday he was experiencing a "difficult moment" in his private life but refused to answer questions over the report in Closer, saying "private matters should be dealt with privately".

Nor would he clarify whether Ms Trierweiler, 48, was still first lady before a February trip to the US.

Closer published a seven-page report on the alleged affair, which Mr Hollande has not denied, last Friday.

Photos show a man in a crash helmet on a moped, said to be Mr Hollande, visiting an apartment building near the Elysee Palace. Ms Gayet is shown at the building in a separate photo.

Public reaction to the alleged affair has been generally muted in France.

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