Obama arrives in France for D-Day anniversary

Other News Materials 6 June 2009 03:31 (UTC +04:00)

US President Barack Obama landed late Friday in France where he is to attend international ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of World War II D-day landings, AFP reported.

Obama arrived on Air Force One at Orly airport at 9:13 pm (1913 GMT), after visiting a former Nazi camp in Germany, and was met by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner before joining French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday.

The Obama motorcade headed directly for the US embassy, in central Paris, after he visited the German city of Dresden, flattened by WWII Allied bombing which killed 35,000 people in February 1945.

Flanked by Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he also became the first US president to visit the Buchenwald concentration camp in central Germany.

German media saw the visit as a conciliatory gesture towards Israel and US Jews after his criticism of Israeli policy in Cairo during a major speech to the Muslim world earlier this week.

As Obama travelled into Paris the US First Lady Michelle Obama and her young daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven, completed a brief trip to the Eiffel Tower Friday evening. They arrived in France shortly before the president.

Obama and his family were to spend Friday night at the US embassy in Paris, before travelling to the north of France Saturday.

On the eve of France's participation in the European Parliament election, Obama will join Sarkozy in Caen and give a speech at the US war cemetery at nearby Colleville-sur-mer.

On Saturday, it will be 65 years ago to the day that the D-Day landings began, marking the final stage of the Allied campaign to defeat Nazi Germany.

Obama will address an invited crowd of 9,000 including 2,000 Americans.

Also present will be British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Britain's Prince Charles, after the US intervened in a cross-channel row over the lack of an invitation for Queen Elizabeth II.

Obama's great-uncle, Charlie Payne, 84 and frail but among the liberators of Buchenwald, will join Obama's party in Normandy after failing to make the trip to the camp complex.

After the official ceremony, the Obama family will return to Paris, where they plan to visit the city's Notre Dame Cathedral and dine at a Paris restaurant.

On Sunday they are expected to visit the Pompidou Centre, which houses a vast collection of modern art, before the president flies back to the United States.

Michelle Obama and the children will extend their stay in the city, lunching with President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, where they will also celebrate Sasha's eighth birthday.

The First Lady is also expected to visit the Louvre Museum, home to the Mona Lisa, before dinner with guests at a Paris restaurant. She and the children are expected to fly out of Paris on Monday.