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Visiting France

Nearly 300 American vets to attend D-Day landings anniversary in France

media Barack Obama, François Hollande greet a US veteran at the White House, 11 Feb. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad

Nearly 300 US veterans of the World War II D-Day landings hope to attend this year's ceremonies in France, 70 years after the largest amphibious military operation in history.

The French government is to cover the costs of accommodation and transport to the beaches of Normandy according to France's minister of veterans, Kader Arif.

"We are starting to put all the organisation in place," Arif said in Washington, the day after President Barack Obama hosted a sumptuous state dinner for French President Francois Hollande at the White House.

Paris wanted to honour the role of the American soldiers who "died on the beaches of France in the name of liberty," he said.

The elderly veterans, including six decorated with the Legion of Honour by Hollande on Tuesday, are all in their late 80s or 90s.

The age of the former soldiers makes the commemoration this year particularly important, he said, as it will be the last chance to have large numbers of veterans in attendance.

Obama announced on Tuesday that he will attend the 70th anniversary of the June 6 Allied landings which led to the liberation of France from the Nazi German occupation.

The British Queen is also due to attend, during a three-day state visit to France.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation from the French president to attend as well, Arif said.

About 650 US military service members will participate in the June ceremonies which will last several days.

The commemorations will include a ceremonial parachute drop by up to 700 troops from the United States, Britain, France and the Netherlands in Normandy.

The grand finale will come on June 6 when heads of state will gather at Sword Beach, stretching from Ouistreham to Sant-Aubin-sur-Mer, where British troops and Free French commandos landed.

More than five million people are expected to attend the anniversary ceremonies.

 

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