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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
France cash boost for ex-soldiers
Publicity shot for Les Indigenes
The new film delivers a stark message about inequalities
France is to increase pension payouts to war veterans from its former colonies, the government has said.

The decision was announced ahead of the premiere of a critically-acclaimed film about North African soldiers who fought for France in World War II.

President Jacques Chirac watched a preview of Les Indigenes and was said to have been moved to action.

Some 80,000 people from 23 countries are expected to have payments increased to levels enjoyed by French veterans.

An estimated 300,000 colonial soldiers from North Africa, West Africa and Indochina fought for France in World War II.

Film effect

Veterans groups have staged a long-running campaign for an increase in pensions for the ex-soldiers.

Those who go through the same combat should get the same benefit
Alioune Kamara
Senegal veterans office
They won a moderate increase in 2001, in line with the costs of living in the veterans' native countries.

But the timing of the latest change in policy, one day ahead of the French premiere of Les Indigenes - The Natives - led one French newspaper to ask whether the two events were directly linked.

France will pay out an estimated 400 million euros ($510m; 278m) to veterans each year, the French veterans ministry said.

"Of course, this represents a relatively expensive cost, but I think it is worth it for the recognition that we owe them," said Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

'So many have died'

Les Indigenes, which was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, follows the fortunes of a group of North Africans who fought for France in World War II.

The film closes with an indictment of the low pensions they later received.

News of the increase was officially welcomed.

"We're happy that they've decided to create parity between men who have fought next to each other," said Alioune Kamara, of Senegal's veterans association.

"Those who go through the same combat should get the same benefit."

But veterans expressed sadness that the award had taken so long.

"France has left so many to die. It's too late," Sekou Diedhiou, 75, who fought for France in Algeria from 1960-1962, told the Associated Press.

"At our age, how much will their money benefit us?"

Clips from Les Indigenes

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