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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 August, 2004, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
France marks the 'other D-Day'
Celebrations in La Motte
Current tensions between the US and France have been set aside
A naval display off the French Riviera has capped two days of celebrations to honour Allied veterans who liberated southern France during World War II.

French President Jacques Chirac and the leaders of 14 African states that contributed troops to the 1944 invasion attended the ceremony.

Mr Chirac said France would never forget "the blood that was shed".

The 15 August assault, known as the "other D-Day", used 450,000 soldiers to open a new front against the Nazis.

The soldiers who stormed the area by boat, parachute and glider included some 100,000 troops from countries that were then colonies of France - Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon, Chad, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

The vastly outnumbered German forces, already reeling from the D-Day assault in northern France, were forced to make a hasty retreat.

Algiers singled out

Mr Chirac was joined by African leaders aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle for the climax to the ceremony.

"The sons of your nations have linked their names with France's military legend, they have forever mixed their blood with ours," he told the gathering.

He gave France's highest decoration - the Legion d'Honneur - to 21 veterans as well as a special award - the Cross of the Legion of Honour - to the Algerian capital, Algiers.

Allied paratroopers in action over southern France in 1944

"It was in Algiers, seat of France's fighting institutions... and opposite the occupied mother country, that a French army was recreated," Mr Chirac said.

Algiers was the seat from 1943-1944 of the government of Gen Charles de Gaulle, opposed to the collaborationist Vichy regime.

The two major Western allies - the UK and the US - had sent lower-ranking delegations to the ceremonies, both UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Vice-President Dick Cheney declining the invitation.

Mr Chirac told their representatives France "will never forget the blood spilled by your children for liberty".


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