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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Bush leads Normandy tribute
George Bush and Jaques Chirac
Chirac told Bush France was grateful to US soldiers
US President George W Bush has marked American Memorial Day with a visit to the beaches of the D-Day landings of World War II in northern France.


The defence of our freedoms will require the sacrifice of our forefathers, for the good of America, for the good of France

George W Bush
Mr Bush began by attending a church service with French President Jacques Chirac in the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise which was the first to be liberated from German occupation in 1944.

He used the visit to speak about the US-led war against terrorism which he said would require the same sacrifice "of our forefathers" in their fight against Nazi Germany.

"It is fitting that we remember those who sacrificed, because today we defend our freedoms against people who can't stand freedom," he said in a short statement outside Sainte-Mere-Eglise church.

President Chirac said France was grateful for American soldiers who "shed their blood on a soil that was not their own", and now the US could count on France's support following the 11 September attacks.

"In paying homage to those who fought for liberty in 1944 and in fighting today against terrorism, we reject fanaticism, the exclusion of others, racism and xenophobia," Mr Chirac said.

President Bush has now wound up his two-day trip to France, during which he has sought to play down perceived differences on a range of issues between France and the US.

He left Paris on Monday afternoon for the Italian capital, Rome, where he will attend a Nato-Russia summit on Tuesday.

Saluting the dead

After the church service Mr Bush was taken by helicopter to Colleville-sur-Mer, the largest US war cemetery in Normandy overlooking Omaha beach, where 9,400 American troops are buried.


In paying homage to those who fought for liberty in 1944 and in fighting today against terrorism, we reject fanaticism, racism and xenophobia

Jacques Chirac
Mr Bush addressed several hundred officials and relatives of the dead, in a speech which mostly steered clear of the current political situation, and instead stressed the sacrifice of the World War II generation.

"Here where we stand today the New World came back to liberate the old; a bond was formed of shared trial and shared victory," he said.

Presidents Bush and Chirac then laid wreaths and stood to attention for a 21-gun salute and fly-past by US and French jets.

Mr Bush follows in the footsteps of predecessors Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who came to the D-Day beaches for the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the 6 June 1944 landings.

Differences

Mr Bush arrived in France on Sunday at a time of apparent growing differences between the two countries.

Anti-Bush protester
Bush's visit has been greeted with protests

Our correspondent says the US and France have a troubled relationship right now, with differences over Middle East policy, the expansion of the war on terrorism to Iraq and many other issues.

The Bush administration is worried about the mood of anti-Americanism in Europe, and the constant carping - as they see it - of countries like France, our correspondent says.

Several thousand demonstrators turned out in Paris to protest against Mr Bush's visit, while demonstrators were also rallying in the north-western city of Caen on Monday morning, where the American leader began his Normandy visit.

Correspondents say the trip has been minutely choreographed by the White House to reinforce Mr Bush's anti-terrorism message, with reminders of American sacrifices in defence of France and the joint bonds of loyalty which link the two countries.

On Sunday, the US leader said this year's Memorial Day - when America remembers its war dead - would be "the first... in a long time in which younger Americans know firsthand the price that was paid for their freedom".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Robbins
"The stage is now set for a crucial signing ceremony"
President Jacques Chirac
"Terrorism can hit anywhere, at any time"
See also:

26 May 02 | Europe
24 May 02 | TV and Radio reports
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