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France

Over 60 world leaders to attend Paris WWI commemorations

media French soldier stands near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Reuters/Denis Allard

More than 60 world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, will travel to Paris next month for commemorations of the end of World War I a century ago.

On 10 November, a day before the commemorations in Paris -- French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also attend a ceremony near Compiegne, northern France, where the armistice ending the war was signed on 11 November 1918, Macron's office said.

The main ceremony will take place at the Arc de Triomphe war monument in Paris at 11 a.m. on 11 November -- marking the time when guns finally fell silent after four years of trench warfare and general European slaughter.

Later in the day, guests will be invited to participate in a Peace Forum, to be opened by Merkel, an event which France wants to turn into an annual multilateral peace conference.

Earlier in November, Macron will spend a week touring the country's WWI battlefields, including Verdun, scene of the longest-lasting battle which left at least 700,000 dead on both sides.

"The idea is to commemorate our 'poilus' (hairy) ancestors," the presidency said, using a nickname for French WWI rank-and-file troops.

Macron will also "pay homage to the French people's extraordinary capacity -- which has never failed -- to rebuild and start anew after a war," the presidency said.

A special cabinet meeting will be held in Charleville-Mezieres, in the Ardennes, an area which saw much destruction during the war and which today suffers from de-industrialisation and high unemployment.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will also attend a Franco-German friendship concert on November 4 in the eastern city of Strasbourg, part of the Alsace region which was returned to France in 1918 after being seized by Prussia in 1870.

Only countries which "sent troops or workers to the European theatres of war" have been invited to the Paris ceremonies, the presidential office, said when asked to explain the absence of countries such as Saudi Arabia.

(with AFP)

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