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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK
Chirac honours plane crash dead
French President Jacques Chirac, right, and  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attend a memorial service in Martinique
Presidents Chirac and Chavez (left) sat among relatives of the victims
French President Jacques Chirac has attended a service on the Caribbean island of Martinique for the victims of last week's plane crash in Venezuela.

More than 150 French nationals from Martinique were killed in the accident.

Mr Chirac said France was in mourning for those killed in "this terrible tragedy" and wished to express its solidarity with the islanders.

The Colombian-owned West Caribbean Airways MD-82 crashed as it was returning to Martinique from Panama.

President Hugo Chavez attended the service on behalf of Venezuela.

Today, the heart of each Frenchman and Frenchwoman beats in unison with that of their Martiniquais brothers and sisters
French President Jacques Chirac
The two-hour memorial was held in a packed stadium in Fort-de-France, the capital of the small French Caribbean island.

It was led by religious leaders from the many faiths represented on the island - Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim.

Relatives of plane crash victims cry during a memorial service in Martinique
Chirac met relatives of the victims before the ceremony
About 30,000 people dressed in white tops, some sobbing in grief, attended the ceremony - among them 1,500 relatives of the victims.

Both Mr Chirac and Mr Chavez laid wreaths on a stone plate engraved with the names of the victims.

Mr Chirac said everything would be done to "shed light on the circumstances and reasons" for the crash.

"Today, the heart of each Frenchman and Frenchwoman beats in unison with that of their Martiniquais brothers and sisters," the French president said upon his arrival.


Later, at a private meeting with Mr Chavez, the French president is said to have thanked his counterpart for the efficient and quick response by Venezuelan authorities following the crash.

Investigators say nothing has been ruled out in the search for what caused the disaster.

Venezuelan officials are working with French and Colombian counterparts to study the jet's engines, both of which failed, and its flight data recorders.

West Caribbean Airways was set up in 2000 to provide low-cost flights within Colombia and to the Caribbean region.

This is the second incident this year involving the airline. In March, a flight taking off from the Colombian island of Providencia crashed, killing eight people.

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In pictures: Venezuela plane crash
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Regions and territories: Martinique
12 May 05 |  Country profiles
Air disasters timeline
14 Aug 05 |  Europe

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