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Chirac to skip Bastille Day ceremonies

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Latest update : 2008-06-24

Former French president Jacques Chirac will not be attending the national Bastille Day ceremonies on July 14. Although no official reason was provided, it's believed the decision is due to the presence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Former French president Jacques Chirac will not take part in national Bastille Day ceremonies in Paris on July 14, sources said on Saturday without elaborating.
  
Radio RTL said that Chirac had taken the decision because of the possible presence of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who has been invited to take part by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
  
Assad is among some 40 foreign leaders who will be in Paris for a summit meeting on July 13 to launch the Mediterranean Union and who are due to attend the ceremonies.
  
Sarkozy's chief of staff clarified earlier this week that Assad had been invited but not as a guest of honour.
  
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be the guest of honour at the July 14 celebrations with foreign dignitaries joining thousands of people to watch the traditional military parade down the Champs Elysees.
  
Questioned by AFP, sources close to the former French president said simply that he "will not go to the July 14 ceremonies" but declined to give any further explanation.
  
Paris broke off contacts with Damascus in 2004 under Chirac.
  
Relations were further harmed by suspicions of Syrian involvement in the February 2005 assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was a personal friend of Chirac.
  
Sarkozy moved to resume relations after taking power in May last year. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met in November with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem, the first contacts since 2004.

Date created : 2008-06-24

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