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Omaha Beach cemetery closed by US shutdown

A US flag bearing the legend "Merci" (Thank you) in front of the grave of one of the fallen
A US flag bearing the legend "Merci" (Thank you) in front of the grave of one of the fallen Open access/Wikipedia

The US government shutdown has hit France. Military cemeteries, including the famous Omaha Beach cemetery where thousands of US troops from World War I and World War II are buried, has been shut since Tuesday.

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Up to one million tourists every year travel to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial to pay their respects to the more than 9,000 soldiers who died at Omaha Beach.

Since Tuesday they haven't been able to enter, thanks to the shutdown, caused by Republicans opposed to US President Barack Obama's health care reforms.

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The site overlooking the World War II D-Day invasion beaches is one of 24 US military cemeteries overseas that are closed to visitors.

Several are in France, including one at Suresnes, near Paris, and one at Draguignan in the south. 

They are maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, set up after World War I.

Nearly 125,000 US servicemen and women are buried in its cemeteries and 94,000 are commemorated on tablets of the missing.

The commission told RFI that it regrets the closure of the Normandy American cemetery but has no choice since staff cannot be paid to man it.

It will open when a new funding measure was passed by the US Congress and signed by the US president.

The Omaha beach site is in the small village of Colleville-sur-Mer with a population of just 170 people.

Local hotels and cafés fear that the temporary closure will hit business.

This is the first time in 17 years that the cemetery has been closed.

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