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France Raises Pensions of Foreign Veterans

The French government announced Wednesday it would raise the pensions of Africans and other foreign veterans who served in the country's armed forces to the same level as French soldiers. The issue addresses long standing grievances over unequal treatment.

The Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese and other foreign soldiers in the French army had equal chances to fight and die as their French counterparts. But for years, they only received a fraction of the veterans' pensions as former soldiers of French nationality.

That will change, with Wednesday's decision by the French government to hike up pensions for foreign veterans to the same level as their French counterparts. French President Jacques Chirac called the decision by the country's center-right government an act of justice.

He said France owed it to foreign veterans who paid a price in blood, and to their children and grandchildren, many of whom are French.

The move coincided with the release of a new French movie called Days of Glory, about Moroccan and Algerian soldiers who fought alongside the French army during World War II. Mr. Chirac had requested a private screening of the movie earlier this month, even as he requested the government to revise a four-decade freeze on the pensions.

The government's decision was hailed by many foreign veterans and immigrant rights activists, including Amid de Benalat, president of the French Union of Former Moroccan Fighters.

Mr. Benalat told French radio that the group had pleaded for years to various branches of government for a hike in payments to veterans. He believes the new movie has finally triggered the change. Symbolically, it is good, he says. But he adds that many foreign pensioners are old, and may die before receiving the money they deserve.