French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin Wednesday, presided over the country's weekly cabinet meeting, replacing President Jacques Chirac, who remains hospitalized with a vascular problem.

It was the first time since taking office in 1995 that Mr. Chirac has missed a cabinet session.

Mr. de Villepin visited the president at the Val de Grace hospital. Mr. Chirac expects to be released from the hospital before the end of the week.

It remains unclear if Mr. Chirac will be able to attend next week's U.N. summit, but aides are moving ahead with plans for him to lead the French delegation.

Doctors say the damage a small hematoma caused to the 72-year-old president's vision is limited and he should be released from the hospital in a few days.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.