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Hollande, Sarkozy pay tribute to slain French soldiers ahead of Afghan withdrawal

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French President François Hollande and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy attended a ceremony to honour the four French soldiers killed in Afghanistan last weekend at Paris’s Les Invalides historic monument. He promised that the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan, scheduled to start in July, would be orderly and safe.

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Hollande invited all three surviving former presidents to attend the ceremony and Sarkozy and Giscard d'Estaing attended.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

The soldiers, who were killed in a suicide attack in Kapisa province on Saturday, “died for just and elevated values, of peace, of freedom, of democracy, the values of France”, Hollande said.

Their deaths brought the French military death toll in Afghanistan to 87.

During the presidential election campaign Hollande pledged to withraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, while Sarkozy promised to bring them home a year later.

On a visit to Kapisa province shortly after being elected, he told troops that 2,000 of the 3,500 soldiers would be home by the end of the year, others staying to help bring home materiel or to train Afghan security forces.

The far-right Front National issued a communiqué on Thursday paying tribute to the four fallen soldiers, condemning “a pointless sacrifice in an absurd war, which is not ours” and called for immediate withdrawal.

Representatives of 29 countries, the European Union, Nato and the United Nations met in Kabul Thursday to discuss the country’s future after the 2014 Nato pull-out.

The conference is one of a series, which will continue in Tokyo next month.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced he would take the opportunity to urge Russia to put pressure on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to end repression of the movement opposed to his rule.
 

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