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World Leaders Pay Tribute to Allied Soldiers on 60th Anniversary of D-Day - 2004-06-06

The leaders of 16 nations are in northern France to pay tribute to thousands of allied soldiers who participated in the D-Day invasion that led to the fall of Nazi Germany in World War II. President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac have vowed to keep up the trans-Atlantic alliance forged 60 years ago, despite their differences over Iraq.

This D-Day anniversary is meant to be a show of unity, honoring the soldiers who helped liberate France and much of the rest of Europe. It has been marked by speeches eulogizing veterans and the war dead, and it brought reconciliation of former foes.

For the first time, a German chancellor is present at a D-Day commemoration. And, also for the first time, a Russian president is attending.

The 60th anniversary of D-Day began with a joint appearance by Presidents Bush and Chirac at the U.S. cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, just above Utah Beach, one of the five main landing spots used by allied troops.

The two leaders used the occasion to stress that there is more uniting than dividing their countries, despite differences over the Iraq war, which France opposed.

Standing in front of the graves of more than nine-thousand American soldiers who died on that fateful day 60 years ago, Mr. Chirac said his country would never forget their sacrifice.

He said that Franco-American friendship remains intact today. He called America France's eternal ally. And that alliance, he said, is all the stronger, because it was forged during the terrible hours of D-Day.

Mr. Bush, too, sought to stress the positive in recalling that France and America have been through a lot together.

"The nations that conquered and liberated Europe would stand together for the freedom of all of Europe," said Mr. Bush. "The nations that battled across the continent would become trusted partners in the cause for peace. And our great alliance of freedom is strong, and it is still needed today."

As Presidents Bush and Chirac spoke, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who is also Canada's head of state, attended a ceremony on Juno Beach to thank the Canadian soldiers who captured it on D-Day.

"Today, we honor all those who gave their lives in this campaign and all of those who fought in this great struggle," she said.

The queen praised the Canadians for coming across the Atlantic from the relative security of their homes to fight for "the freedom of Europe."