Trump hails America's 'great warriors' in WWI cemetery visit

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President Donald Trump stood in the rain on Sunday and said American soldiers fighting in World War One ‘gave everything for family, country, God and freedom’.
US President Donald Trump attends a ceremomy in the American Cemetery of Suresnes, outside Paris, on Nov 11, 2018, as part of Veterans Day and the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the Nov 11, 1918 armistice, ending World War I. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - President Donald Trump paid tribute to the "great warriors" who died in World War I as he visited a US cemetery in France, a day after drawing fire for cancelling a similar trip due to bad weather.

Speaking at Suresnes military cemetery in the western Paris suburbs, Trump hailed the "great warriors who gave everything for family, country, God and freedom".

Trump, who was in Paris to attend a ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the war, also praised the courage of the French and other Allied troops killed in "one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history".

Singling out the "American and French patriots" who served in the war, he said: "It is our duty to preserve the civilisation they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago." Over 1,500 US soldiers who fought in World War I are buried at the hillside cemetery in Suresnes.

Trump's visit had been much anticipated after he called off a trip to the Belleau Wood battlefield in northern France on Saturday due to the rain, a decision for which he was widely criticised.

Some 2,289 others are buried at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery next to Belleau Wood.

On Sunday, Trump shrugged off the continuing wet weather to remember those who braved "rain, hail, snow, mud, poisonous gas, bullets and mortar" fire in pursuit of a "great, great" Allied victory.

Speaking on an open-air podium, without an umbrella, he named a group of World War II veterans present and thanked them each in turn.

Addressing one veteran, he joked: "You look so comfortable up there under shelter as we're getting drenched. You're very smart people!" Earlier, Trump and his wife Melania joined dozens of other leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, in marking the centenary of the Armistice at the Arc de Triomphe war monument on the Champs-Elysees.

"It was very beautiful, so well done," was Trump's verdict on the ceremony, at which his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, delivered a stinging indictment of nationalism.

While he was speaking in Suresnes, Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders attending a peace forum in Paris - an event Trump snubbed - again warned against attempts to undermine the rules-based post-war international order.

After the cemetery visit Trump left for Orly airport to fly back to Washington.

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