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Europe

White House 'working' to get Queen Elizabeth invited to Normandy

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-02

In a bid to defuse French-British tensions, the White House said it was working to secure an invitation for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, after France failed to invite the monarch to the anniversary on June 6.

AFP - The White House said Monday it was working with organizers of next weekend's D-Day 65th anniversary commemorations to secure an invitation for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

President Barack Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked whether his boss thought that Queen Elizabeth, 83, should be present at the event on the Normandy beaches on Saturday.

"He does," Gibbs replied. "We are working with those involved to see if we can make that happen."

The comments may revive debate about the looming absence of the queen, who served in uniform during World War II, from the commemoration ceremonies, following last week reports of an Anglo-France rift over the ceremony.

France said last week that Queen Elizabeth would be welcome to attend the event, featuring Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But the queen did not specifically receive an invitation from the French government, even though she was present for the 60th anniversary event in 2004, amid claims in the British press that she was annoyed at being excluded.

Paris said an invitation had been extended to the British government and it was up to Prime Minister Gordon Brown to decide who would attend.

"The Queen of England, as British head of state, is naturally welcome," said French government spokesman Luc Chatel.

"It's not up to France to decide who will represent Britain," he said.

Earlier on Monday, Brown said he would be happy to arrange for the queen to attend the commemorations.

"If the queen or members of the royal family were able to go to the D-Day commemorations or wanted to go, I would ensure that it would happen," he told Sky News television.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman however made it clear Monday that the queen would not be attending the events in France marking D-Day, and stressed she was not upset about the situation.

"Neither the queen nor any other members of the royal family will be attending the D-Day commemorations on June 6 as we have not received an official invitation to any of these events," the spokeswoman said.

"We would like to reiterate that we have never expressed any sense of anger or frustration at all, and are content with all the arrangements that are planned."

The D-Day celebrations mark the anniversary of the 1944 allied landings in France, then occupied by Nazi Germany, that proved a vital turning point in the course of World War II.

Date created : 2009-06-02

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