Sarkozy says Statue of Liberty beacon to world

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy marked the 125th anniversary Wednesday of the Statue of Liberty, which was donated by France, by saying that his country and the United States must show that "freedom is for everyone."

Visiting the famed bronze statue in New York harbor, Sarkozy said the figure "is not just a statue. It's an idea -- not just for Americans, not just for the French, but for all the people of the world."

"The French and Americans, we have a special responsibility to show that freedom is for everyone," he added, heralding longstanding Franco-US links and "love of freedom."

Sarkozy, in New York for the UN General Assembly meetings, was accompanied by guests including actor Robert De Niro and Pierre-Christophe Baguet, mayor of Boulogne, the French city where the statue was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.

Sarkozy said the statue representing liberty to generations of immigrants arriving in New York was also part of the reason the city was attacked on September 11, 2001.

"It's not just New York that was martyred, but the idea that you embody freedom across the world," he said. "We began the century with tragedy in New York. Today we see the call to freedom among the Arab peoples. This statue speaks to the young in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt."

"This statue, given by France to the great American people, it can be the statue for all those across the world who prefer freedom to dictatorship."

The statue is to close to tourists on October 28 for a $27.25 million renovation. However, Liberty Island, where it stands, will remain open.

The Statue of Liberty was presented to the United States in 1886. It came to symbolize freedom -- especially for immigrants, 12 million of whom passed through nearby Ellis Island as they entered the United States.

© 2011 AFP

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