A SPECIAL ceremony will be held at the Arc de Triomphe today as President Sarkozy pays tribute to the 25 soldiers killed in the past year in Afghanistan and moves towards making November 11 a commemoration of all France's war dead.
Reacting to calls from former combatants, Sarkozy said the Armistice Day commemoration should be for all those who "died for France".
Minister for anciens combatants Marc Laffineur said the move would honour what he called the "fourth generation in the firing line" after 1914-18, 1939-45, and Indochina and Algeria. "This allows us to show a link between all those who have died for France and for their values."
The deaths in Afghanistan are the heaviest losses France has suffered since the terrorist attack on the Drakkar building in the Lebanon in 1983 which killed 58 soldiers serving as part of the UN peacekeeping force.
With French troops also fighting in Libya Sarkozy is continuing moves he started in 2007 to update the commemoration with a call to celebrate peace in Europe. The next year he invited Britain's Prince Charles to join him and then, in 2009, marked the occasion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, veterans from the Fédération Nationale des Anciens Combattants en Algérie, Maroc et Tunisie have attacked the plan saying: "There are different conflicts that must be respected, historical dates that must be respected. We do not agree that there should be a single day of memory in France and that all conflicts should not be commemorated."
After the ceremony in Paris, President Sarkozy will inaugurate the new Great War Museum in Meaux, Seine-et-Marne, which has 7,000sq.m of space given over to marking the events of the 14-18 war.