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Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
Chirac apologises for graves graffiti
Graffiti at the cemetery in Etaples
The graffiti was found by a British tourist
French President Jacques Chirac has apologised to the Queen for the desecration of a British war cemetery in France.

Mr Chirac described the scrawling of anti-war graffiti on monuments at a First World War cemetery near Calais, as "inadmissible and shameful".

Downing Street said Tony Blair "unreservedly welcomed the content and sentiment" of the letter, published on Thursday.

The anti-war slogans and insults against Mr Blair and President George Bush were spray-painted last week at the cemetery in Etaples, where 11,000 British and other Allied soldiers are buried.

From the French people and from me personally, I offer you my deepest regrets
President Chirac, in a letter to the Queen

The main monument was daubed in red with the words "Saddam will win and spill your blood", "Dig up your rubbish, it is fouling our soil" and "Rosbeefs [a reference to the British] go home".

In his letter Mr Chirac said French people's thoughts were with British soldiers currently fighting in Iraq.

"From the French people and from me personally, I offer you my deepest regrets," Mr Chirac wrote in his letter to the Queen, received on Thursday.

'Unanimous reprobation'

The president said he was "appalled and deeply shocked " and said the "defacement" was both unacceptable and shameful.

"[It] has aroused the unanimous reprobation of the French," he added.

The graffiti was discovered by a British tourist, who took photos of it.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said on Thursday: "We unreservedly welcome both the content and the sentiment of President Chirac's letter and the sentiments towards our troops serving in action at the moment and that his thoughts and the thoughts of the people of France are with those soldiers."

President Chirac, whose opposition to the war was made clear before the start of the conflict, told the Queen that "at the moment when your soldiers are engaged in combat, the thoughts of the French are naturally turning towards them".


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