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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 10:57 GMT
France plans Algeria memorial
A petrol station burns in the European sector of Algiers
Thousands of French soldiers died in the civil war
France has decided to build a national memorial to its soldiers who died in the bitter 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence.


The monument will acknowledge that those young men simply went to do their duty

Deputy Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Masseret
The memorial - inspired by the US Washington memorial to its Vietnam war dead - will be a large wall carrying the names of approximately 24,000 French servicemen.

Deputy Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Masseret said it would stand on the banks of the River Seine, about 200m from the Eiffel Tower.

Mr Masseret said the project had been in the pipeline for years, but veterans put new pressure on the government to do something after a recent national debate into the use of torture during the war.

'Horrible' war

"It was a horrible war and torture was used by all sides," Mr Masseret said.

President Chirac
Chirac: Defender of veterans' honour
"But the vast majority of the 1.8 million young Frenchmen who served in Algeria were never involved in acts of torture, and they are now uneasy because their own grandchildren are sometimes asking them if they were torturers.

"The monument will acknowledge that those young men simply went to do their duty when asked and many never came back."

An estimated 200,000 Muslims died during the conflict.

The recent controversy over torture was sparked when senior officers who served in Algeria openly admitted the widespread use of torture and summary execution of captives who had committed atrocities against civilians.

Honour

One officer admitted executing 20 Algerians personally.

However, many French politicians jumped to the defence of the veterans.

"I'll never do anything to harm the memory or the honour of the men who fought for France," President Jacques Chirac told an interviewer.

"In these sorts of events, the best thing is to stand back and let history do its work."

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See also:

20 Jan 01 | Middle East
Algerian president under pressure
04 Jan 01 | Middle East
Algerian violence flares
07 Dec 00 | Middle East
Timeline: Algeria
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