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French leaders mark WWII anniversary

Friday, May 9, 2003

PARIS -- French President Jacques Chirac marked the 58th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Thursday to honor those who died fighting.

Chirac was joined at the monument, which is at the foot of the Arc de Triomph, by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe.

Spectators lined the tree-lined Champs-Elysees boulevard to watch a military parade, as Chirac shook hands with more than 100 veterans who attended the annual ceremony. France lost nearly 600,000 people in the war.

On May 7, 1945, German representatives surrendered to the Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Reims, France, with an Allied victory announced the following day. World War II ended later in 1945 with the Japanese surrender.

In 1953, the French government declared May 8 a public holiday.

A separate ceremony was held in the northern port of Cherbourg to mark the one-year anniversary of a suicide bombing in Karachi, Pakistan that killed 11 French engineers.

Families of the victims attended the private ceremony at which a commemorative plaque was laid at the Direction of Naval Construction, where the engineers had worked.

In the May 8, 2002, attack, a suspected Islamic militant rammed a car laden with explosives into a bus carrying the French engineers, who were about to leave for their jobs helping to build a submarine for the Pakistan navy. Two Pakistani passers-by and the bomber also were killed.


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