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Sarkozy admits France abandoned Algerian loyalists
French President Nicolas Sarkozy formally admitted Saturday that France failed in its duty to the pro-French Algerians who emigrated to France after the Algerian war of independence. He said France should "admit the mistakes it has made."
AFP - President Nicolas Sarkozy formally admitted Saturday that France failed in its duty towards the Algerian loyalists who fought on Paris' side in their country's war of independence.
Around 60,000 pro-French Algerians, known as "harkis", came to France after the war, but approximately as many again were abandoned to face bloody reprisals in Algeria at the hands of their pro-independence countrymen.
"France should have protected the harkis from history, it did not do so. France bears this historic responsibility, and it is this reponsibility that I have come here to recognise," Sarkozy said in the southern city of Perpignan.
"France should, as it has always done, look history in the face and admit the mistakes it has made. In this instance, nothing can explain and nothing can excuse our abandoning of those who chose the side of France," he said.
Today, the harkis and their descendants represent around 500,000 people in France, many of them still living in poverty, and making up a sizable pool of possible voters in next week's French presidential election.
Sarkozy's main opponent in his re-election battle is the Socialist Party's Francois Hollande, who has already promised to accept France's guilt if he is elected in the two-round vote, to be held on April 22 and May 6.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the accords that brought the Algerian War of Independence to an end, and so the withdrawal of the French colonial administration and French and harki forces.