Chirac leads VE-Day commemorations in Paris

9th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 8 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Sunday laid flowers on the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as he led ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

PARIS, May 8 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Sunday laid flowers on the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as he led ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.  

After reviewing troops in the massive square along with France's armed forces chief General Henri Bentegeat, Chirac was joined by Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and veterans affairs minister Hamlaoui Mekachera.  

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was unable to attend the ceremony after undergoing emergency gall bladder surgery on Saturday. He was recovering in a Paris military hospital on Sunday.  

The French army choir, joined by Paris area youths, sang the national anthem, La Marseillaise - an unusual addition to what is normally a solemn, silent ceremony.  

Chirac bestowed medals on several deportees, elevating 86-year-old Henry Bulkawko - who was sent to the Auschwitz death camp in 1942 - to the rank of Grand Officer in the Legion of Honour, France's highest civilian distinction.  

Jean de Roquette Buisson, 85, who served in the French resistance before being sent to Buchenwald, also received the rank of Grand Officer.  

French troops were joined by contingents from other Allied countries. Honor guards presented 14 foreign Allied flags at the Arc de Triomphe. Some 400 young people from Allied states, as well as Germany and Italy, attended the ceremony.  

"The presence of these Allied flags and the youths represents peace in Europe," Chirac's office said.   Fighter jets closed the commemoration with a fly-by over the famed Champs-Elysees, trailing blue, white and red smoke behind them - a rare sight, as such a fly-over is usually reserved for Bastille Day celebrations.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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