French veterans oppose Assad’s presence at Bastille Day parade

July 11th, 2008 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, July 11 (DPA) The French government has banned a demonstration by French veterans meant in part to protest against the presence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an honoured guest at the July 14 Bastille Day military parade, French media reported Friday. “The police have banned our demonstration under pressure of the Elysee Palace,” said Laurent Attar-Bayrou, the head of the veterans’ association FNAME, one of the organisers of the protest. “We’ve returned to the level of democracy of some of the countries who will be present during the July 14 ceremony.”

The demonstration was to have taken place Thursday evening on the Champs Elysees, to protest the “lack of moral support” for the French Army by the government and also to voice objection to Assad’s participation in the July 14 ceremony.

French veterans blame Syria for the deaths of 93 French members of a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon in 1983.

FNAME has called on soldiers marching in Monday’s parade to wear black arm bands to protest Assad’s presence. In addition, France Info radio reported Friday that some soldiers may turn their heads away as they pass the Syrian president.

Former French President Jacques Chirac has previously said he would not be at the July 14 ceremonies because of Assad’s participation. Chirac blames Assad for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, for which Syrian intelligence services have been implicated.

Assad will be present July 14 because President Nicolas Sarkozy invited all participants at Sunday’s summit meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean to take part in the Bastille Day festivities.

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