D-Day ceremonies defuse G8 summit tensions

7th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

CAEN, France, June 7 (AFP) - The 60th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings ended Sunday in a spirit of reconciliation, setting a hopeful tone for a summit of eight leading industrial nations in the United States this week.

CAEN, France, June 7 (AFP) - The 60th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings ended Sunday in a spirit of reconciliation, setting a hopeful tone for a summit of eight leading industrial nations in the United States this week.

Paying tribute to those who took part in the biggest seaborne invasion in history, French President Jacques Chirac and his US counterpart George W. Bush diplomatically avoided any reference to last year's US-led attack on Iraq, the most contentious subject likely to arise at the G8 meeting.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the first German leader invited to the D-Day ceremonies, used the occasion to pledge that his country "will not shirk from its responsibility for peace and human rights."

And, in words likely to resonate with Bush, he also declared that European politicians had a responsibility to ensure that war crimes and terrorism could not succeed.

President Vladimir Putin, the first Russian leader to attend a D-Day ceremony, similarly warned of the danger of terrorism and told reporters: "We will work with our partners to neutralise that threat."

The war and occupation of Iraq created the worst strains for many years between the United States, Britain and Italy on the one hand and France, Germany and Russia on the other.

All six countries will take part, with Japan and Canada, in the G8 summit which opens Tuesday at the posh Atlantic Ocean resort of Sea Island, Georgia.

Amid the poignant D-Day ceremonies, Bush's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, told Fox television that the UN Security Council was "very close" to adopting a draft US-British resolution on Iraq.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN that the resolution would recognise the need for an international military presence in Iraq but would provide for the US-led force to leave by the end of next year.

Much of the tension had already eased thanks to diplomatic contacts well before the weekend ceremonies in Normandy, but the sight of Bush and Chirac standing side by side in the huge US military cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach confirmed it.

"France will never forget. She will never forget that 6th of June, 1944, the day hope was reborn and rekindled," Chirac said after laying a wreath to the thousands of US soldiers buried there, many of whom were mown down on the beaches before they could even fire a shot.

"America is our eternal ally, and that alliance and solidarity are all the stronger for having been forged in those terrible hours," he said.

Bush declared that France was "America's first friend in the world," and added: "America honours all the liberators who fought here in the noblest of causes, and America would do it again for our friends."

He was later warmly applauded by French locals when he joined leaders of 15 other countries at the main ceremony of the day, held at Arromanches, the midpoint on the five beaches where 155,000 Allied troops launched the drive to free Europe from Nazi occupation.

Differences among G8 members were expected to persist, however, on other aspects of Iraqi reconstruction, including the question of the battered country's USD 120 billion in foreign debt.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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