Sarkozy invokes patriotism, heads for G20

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a patriotic rallying cry at a war ceremony Thursday before setting off for the G20 summit in South Korea.

World leaders were already meeting in Seoul on Thursday for the summit, but Sarkozy delayed his departure to attend the Armistice Day ceremony commemorating the end of World War I.

Sarkozy takes over the presidency of the Group of 20 economic powers on Saturday and analysts say he is hoping his turn on the world stage will give him a domestic boost ahead an expected re-election bid in 2012.

Laying a wreath and relighting the flame at the tomb of an unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe war monument in Paris, Sarkozy invoked the spirit of the patriotic hero Charles de Gaulle and the French resistance of World War II.

He shook hands with war veterans at the monument and unveiled a plaque dedicated to thousands of students who defied France's Nazi occupiers on November 11, 1940 by demonstrating in honour of those killed in World War I.

The wartime demonstrators who heeded De Gaulle's resistance call "remind us that the love of France is a precious possession," Sarkozy said in a statement.

In a speech Tuesday he had cited the general's example to defend his own leadership.

After Thursday's ceremony Sarkozy left to take a flight to Seoul for the G20 summit. He has vowed to push for monetary reform, stabilise commodity markets and shake up world governance during his year at the helm.

Sarkozy's office said he would fly to Seoul in his new presidential plane, dubbed "Air Sarko One" by the media: a long-haul Airbus 330 with a communications room and anti-missile devices.

The plane has sparked criticism from political opponents. It cost 176 million euros (240 million dollars) to buy second-hand and renovate, but government spokesman Luc Chatel insisted it was "nothing ostentatious".

© 2010 AFP

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