France, Britain honour sacrifice of WWI soldiers

Paris (AFP) –

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Political leaders, active troops and veterans, health workers and sports players in Britain and France paused Wednesday to remember the sacrifice of soldiers killed in World War I.

In London and Paris, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended Armistice Day ceremonies to mark 100 years since the memorial interment of two unknown warriors -- one from each country -- in honour of the fallen.

"November 11, 1918. At 11.00 am, throughout France, bells and bugles sounded the ceasefire. Millions of soldiers died for France. For our freedom. For our values. Let us never forget," Macron tweeted after a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe.

The Paris ceremony was also attended by ex-presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

Johnson said on Twitter: "Today we remember all our servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. Lest we forget."

This year marks 102 years since the armistice signed by Germany and Allied countries to end World War I.

- Bomb explodes -

It is also 100 years since the remains of two nameless soldiers -- one French and one British -- were taken from the Western Front to be honoured in memorial graves at the Arc de Triomphe and in London's Westminster Abbey.

Britain's Prince Charles laid a wreath at the abbey, while England rugby players training in London and soldiers deployed to a coronavirus rapid-testing facility in Liverpool took time out to observe two minutes' silence for the fallen war heroes.

Commemorations were also held in Kosovo, Belgrade, Edinburgh and Brussels.

As Europe paid its respects, a bomb struck a World War I commemoration attended by Western diplomats in the Saudi city of Jeddah, leaving at least two people wounded.

The attack came amid widespread Muslim anger at Macron's vow to tackle radical Islam in the aftermath of a string of terror attacks which have claimed 250 lives on French soil since 2015.

Last month, a Saudi citizen with a knife wounded a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah on the same day a knife-wielding man killed three people in a church in Nice in southern France.

- Pantheon honour -

Macron did not address the Paris memorial, which was sparsely attended and socially-distanced amid a second nationwide lockdown to curtail the coronavirus outbreak.

After laying a wreath, he greeted military officials one by one, thanking them for their service.

Later Wednesday, Macron was to preside over a ceremony to reinter the remains of World War I writer Maurice Genevoix at the Pantheon of national heroes in Paris.

Macron has championed the honour to encourage remembrance of the conflict.

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