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US shutdown closes iconic D-Day cemeteries in France

© CC/Erik Cleves Kristensen

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-02

The US government shutdown on Tuesday affected military cemeteries worldwide. In France, the famous Omaha Beach cemetery, where thousands of US troops who died in key battles during the First and Second World Wars are buried, was temporarily shut.

Iconic military cemeteries around the world where thousands of American soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars lay to rest were temporarily closed from Tuesday due to the US government shutdown.

A sign outside the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, west of Paris, informed visitors of its closure. “Due to the United States government shutdown, this site is closed to the public”

But Suresnes isn’t the only one. The move affects some 20 cemeteries in France, Belgium, Britain, Italy, Tunisia and Mexico which serve as the final resting place for troops who died in landmark campaigns such as the Normandy D-Day landings, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) said on its website.

A sign informs visitors of the closing of the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, west of Paris, on October 1, 2013. ©AFP

Normal operations will resume "when a new funding measure is passed by the US Congress and signed by the president of the United States," the ABMC said.

Christopher Palmer, a spokesman for the US embassy in Paris, confirmed the move but said the mission and consulates in the country will remain open.

A restaurant owner near the American cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the landing beaches of the Normandy invasion, expressed fears that her business would be hit.

The site, which houses the remains of more than 9,300 US troops, attracts more than one million visitors a year.

"Today there were people," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I had 80 to 90 people. Everybody was only talking about this, they didn't know. Even the guides brought tourists.

"But if tomorrow, the cemetery is still closed it could have serious repercussions on our business."

At the American cemetery at Bony, containing the graves of 1,844 soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme during World War I and other operations, employees did not turn up for work, a worker said.

"But they will be paid because we are under French law," the worker said, joking that these were just "extra holidays".

The US government was forced to shut down on Tuesday, after the houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget. National parks, monuments, and some administrative offices were immediately closed, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal workers temporarily without a job.

It was the first shutdown in 17 years.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-10-02

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