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Betancourt honoured at Bastille Day celebrations

Article published on the 2008-07-14 Latest update 2008-07-14 14:50 TU

Sarkozy Betancourt the Légion d'honneur(Credit: Reuters)

Sarkozy Betancourt the Légion d'honneur
(Credit: Reuters)

Franco-Colombian former hostage Ingrid Betancourt was given the Légion D'Honneur, one of France's highest honours, by President Nicolas Sarkozy during the French national day celebrations. Sarkozy presented the award to the 46-year-old former Colombian presidential candidate after she was rescued from the jungle last month, ending six years in captivity.

Betancourt spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the ceremony. Ban invited her to take part in a future forum on "hostages on terrorism".

"In response to Ms. Betancourt, I assured her that the United Nations and I personally, as secretary-general, we are ready to do all in our power to help the other hostages [in Colombia]," Ban told journalists.

Ban was the guest of honour at the Bastille Day celebrations. Two units of UN peacekeepers led the traditional part of the military parade from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.

Ban was present for the 13 July Paris launch of Sarkozy's project for a Union for the Mediterannean, the grouping of European, Middle Eastern and North African nations around the Mediterannean rim. All heads of state who attended the event were also invited to France's national day celebrations, including Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Opposition politicans and some French military veterans were angered at Assad's inclusion as a guest to watch the military parade.

Some veterans accuse Syria of the 1983 bombing the Drakkar building in Lebanon that killed 58 French soliders. Still others who served as UN peacekeepers in Lebanon objected, citing Syria as the main power-broker in the country for over 30 years.

The Elysée Palace issued a statement on Sunday defending Sarkozy's decision to include Assad, saying that the Drakkar bombing was carried out by Iranian-backed Hezbollah and not Syria.

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