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World leaders hold solemn ceremony to mark WW1 Armistice centenary

Paris

SOME 70 world leaders gathered under rainy skies at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday for a solemn ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of monarchs, presidents and prime ministers from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond joined French President Emmanuel Macron to mark the moment guns fell silent across Europe a century ago.

The commemoration is the centrepiece of global tributes to honour the 10 million soldiers who were killed during the 1914-18 war and the moment the Armistice, signed in north-eastern France, came into effect at 11am on Nov 11, 1918.

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As Mr Trump's convoy was making its way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, a bare-breasted protester from the Femen radical feminist group ran towards his motorcade, coming within a few metres, before being apprehended by police.

Photographs of the incident appeared to show that she had the words "fake peacemaker" scrawled across her body.

In a glass canopy at the foot of the triumphal arch, built by Emperor Napoleon in 1806, the leaders stood for the solemn ceremony. The last to arrive was Mr Putin, who shook hands with Mr Macron, Mrs Merkel and then Mr Trump, briefly giving the US leader a thumbs up. Mr Macron stood to attention as a military band played the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, before walking through the rain to inspect troops. He then took his place under the Arc while cellist Yo-Yo Ma played a movement from a Bach symphony.

In a rare public display of emotion by the leaders of two world powers, Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel held hands on Saturday during a poignant ceremony in the Compiegne Forest, north of Paris, where French and German delegations signed the Armistice that ended the war. The conflict was one of the bloodiest in history, reshaping Europe's politics and demographics. Peace, however, was short-lived and two decades later, Nazi Germany invaded its neighbours.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr Macron hosted the inaugural Paris Peace Forum, which seeks to promote a multilateral approach to security and governance and ultimately avoid the errors that led to the outbreak of World War One.

Mrs Merkel said in a statement the forum showed that "today there is a will, and I say this on behalf of Germany with full conviction, to do everything to bring a more peaceful order to the world, even though we know we still have much work to do". Mr Trump, who champions a nationalist "America First" policy, did not attend the forum.

The US leader has said he will also not hold a bilateral meeting with Mr Putin in Paris. Both men are expected to have formal talks later this month. REUTERS