France Marks Bastille Day

France celebrated its military might in an annual Bastille Day parade Wednesday, and French President Jacques Chirac defended the country's participation alongside NATO forces in Kosovo.

Â"We are in a world where each time there is a war, the entire international community is concerned,Â" Chirac said in a television interview.

Although France is not a part of NATO's integrated command, it participated fully in the campaign against Belgrade and was Â"the second contributor after the United States,Â" Chirac said.

Under fire from members of his center-right political party for agreeing to share power with the Socialist-led government, Chirac said he had no intention of cutting short his presidential term as some critics have suggested.

Chirac also stressed that France should take greater advantage of this period of economic growth by reducing the national debt, cutting taxes and starting a pension fund system for retirees.

The interview was held after the annual military parade down the famed Champs-Elysees. Dozens of fighter jets streamed red, white and blue smoke across the sky, while soldiers from two continents strutted proudly and tens of thousands of spectators looked on.

Morocco's King Hassan II, guest of honor at this year's parade, stood beside Chirac during much of the two-hour-long display and reviewed 500 of his own Moroccan Royal Guard leading the procession. The Moroccan king was accompanied by one of his sons, the 26-year-old Prince Moulay Rachid.

The parade, which also included some 5,000 men and women from diverse French regiments and 300 vehicles, honored several units engaged in the Kosovo conflict.

Bastille Day commemorates the storming by Parisians of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789, setting off the French Revolution that toppled King Louis XVI and put an end to the monarchy.

Written by Susannah Patton
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