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France's ex-first lady says 'don't worry about me,' focuses on hunger in India

Valerie Trierweiler, the ex-first lady of French President Francois Hollande, speaks to the media after visiting Sion government hospital in Mumbai, India, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. A day after splitting up with Hollande, Trierweiler launched a new stage in her life Sunday with a charity visit to India. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

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Valerie Trierweiler, the ex-first lady of French President Francois Hollande, speaks to the media after visiting Sion government hospital in Mumbai, India, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. A day after splitting up with Hollande, Trierweiler launched a new stage in her life Sunday with a charity visit to India. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

MUMBAI, India - In her first public appearance since the French president broke up with her, Valerie Trierweiler bristled Monday when asked about her future during a charity visit to India and said, "don't worry about me."

Trierweiler did not address the scandal directly during a news conference with the aid group Action Against Hunger. But in response to a reporter's question about how she feels about her future life, Trierweiler, 48, said she was not sure what the years will bring.

"I don't know," she said in some of her first public comments since the scandal erupted earlier this month. "I have time, there are some years to come. I will see bit by bit. For now I am not foreseeing anything. In any case, don't worry about me."

She acknowledged that her days as first lady were over, but she refused to talk about her accomplishments in the role.

"I don't know if it's for me to judge, or for you," Trierweiler said in French. "I was there for 19 months. I was able to discover people whom I hadn't known. I understood that you can be useful, and in being useful to others you can be useful to yourself."

Earlier, Trierweiler spent the day cuddling children in a public hospital in Mumbai.

The former first lady arrived in Mumbai on Sunday evening on a long-planned trip that has provided her with an escape from the scandal. She has been a subject of intense media interest after being hospitalized earlier this month with what aides described as shock and the blues following a tabloid's publication of photos it said proved President Francois Hollande was having an affair with an actress.

On Saturday, Hollande announced their seven-year relationship was over. On Monday, the link to Trierweiler's first lady page on the presidential website was shut down.

The two were not married.

As reporters followed Trierweiler's every move in Mumbai, French TV switched to coverage of Hollande's trip to Turkey, with one all-news channel showing a banner on the screen reading "First Trip of a Single President."

Trierweiler, a career journalist who has three children from a previous marriage, said it was agonizing to see children suffer.

"I cannot stand that these children have fewer chances than others," she said. "We should give the same chances to all. We have (here) children who suffer from malnutrition. That is why I am here today."

After the hospital visit, Trierweiler posted a photograph of a mother and child in a message on her Twitter account that read: "Alongside ACF (Action Against Hunger) in India to fight malnutrition. A child dies of hunger every 30 seconds."

She also posted a message thanking the staff of the French presidential palace for their "devotion."

Trierweiler's chief of staff, Patrice Biancone, told The Associated Press that her office as first lady would be formally eliminated Wednesday.

"These last few days have been difficult. But today, she is serene," he said Sunday.

The head of Action Against Hunger said Trierweiler planned to commit herself to humanitarian work.

Meanwhile in France, Hollande is facing a wave of discontent over his economic policies.

On Sunday, some 17,000 people marched through central Paris to denounce the country's high taxes, high unemployment and economic stagnation. His public approval rating stands at about 30 per cent. Some 250 people were arrested and 19 police officers injured after the protest degenerated into violence.

In an interview published Sunday and conducted before he split with Trierweiler, Hollande renewed his plea for privacy. He told Time magazine that "private life is always, at certain times, a challenge. And it has to be respected."

Hollande has never married. He and Trierweiler became a couple in 2007, after he ended a more than a two-decade relationship with the mother of his four children, former presidential candidate Segolene Royal.

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