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Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo has hit back at President Donald Trump’s negative remarks about the city, using Walt Disney characters.

She tweeted a picture of herself with Mickey and Minnie Mouse celebrating Paris’ “dynamism and spirit of openness”.

French President Francois Hollande said such criticisms were “never good”.

At a speech to conservative activists, Donald Trump cited a friend who no longer wanted to take his family to Paris.

The president also criticized Europe’s handling of terrorism, saying that Americans could not let recent attacks happen in the US.

More than 230 people have died in a series of attacks in France since the beginning of 2015, including in January and November of that year in Paris and in Nice in July 2016.

France has been under a state of emergency for more than a year.

Speaking at the CPAC on February 24, Donald Trump sought to justify his crackdown on immigration by criticizing the effect it had had on some European countries.

The president singled out Paris, mentioning a friend called “Jim” who used to be a regular visitor to the city but had stopped going in recent years because “Paris is no longer Paris”.

“Take a look at what’s happening to our world, folks, and we have to be smart… We can’t let that happen to us,” Donald Trump went on.

Anne Hidalgo stressed the inclusivity and energy of Paris, tweeting a picture of her launching a tourism campaign at the Eiffel Tower.

The remarks came as France celebrated the 25th anniversary of the theme park Disneyland Paris.

She also challenged the suggestion that tourist numbers from the United States were in decline, saying reservations were up 30% in 2017.

President Hollande, meanwhile, said Donald Trump’s remarks were no way to behave towards an ally.

“It is never good to show the slightest mistrust towards a friendly country,” he said.

“That is not what I would do towards a friendly country and I would ask the American president not to do it to France.”

In a reference to France’s tighter gun control laws, Francoise Hollande said: “There are no weapons circulating here. There are no people who take weapons to shoot into the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy.”

According to figures published by the Paris Office of Tourism, 7,356,945 foreign tourists arrived at hotels in the city of Paris between January and November 2016, 11.9% fewer than in the same period the previous year.

Among American tourists the decline was only slighter smaller – there were 1,387,191 hotel arrivals, down 9.9%.

In the same period there was a slight rise in the number of tourists from other parts of France, of 0.3% to almost 6 million.

The 2015 figures mostly cover the period before the November 13 attacks which shocked the country and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

No figures were given for tourists staying in non-hotel accommodation such as Airbnb.


Vladimir Putin has decided to cancel a planned visit to France amid a row over Syria.

The Russian president had been due to meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande and open a new Orthodox church on October 19.

However, after the French government said talks would be confined to Syria the visit was halted, presidential sources said.

On October 10, Francois Hollande suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s city of Aleppo.

The French presidency had told the Russians President Hollande would attend only one event with Vladimir Putin during the visit planned for October 19 – a working meeting on Syria, according to the sources.

But after this Russia “let it be known that it wanted to postpone the visit”, they added.Vladimir Putin Panama Papers

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin confirmed the trip had been canceled, adding that the visit would take place when it becomes “comfortable for President Hollande”.

Despite this Francois Hollande has said he will meet Vladimir Putin at “any time” if it would “further peace”.

The development comes a day after President Hollande told French TV that prosecutions over Syria could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“These are people who today are the victims of war crimes. Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC,” the French president said.

Neither Russia nor Syria is a member of the ICC.

Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, and says it targets terrorist groups in Syria.

The besieged east of Aleppo has come under intense aerial bombardment since a cessation of hostilities brokered by the US and Moscow collapsed last month.

The area was hit again on October 11 in some of the heaviest air strikes in days, a monitoring group and activists said.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 8 civilians were killed in strikes on the Bustan al-Qasr and Fardos districts.

Diplomatic efforts to revive the ceasefire have so far come to nothing.

The UN has warned that eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people still live, could face “total destruction” in two months.

Last week Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by France calling for an end to the bombing in Aleppo.

France Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has announced his departure from the socialist government.

He told reporters that he had attended his final cabinet meeting on February 10.

Laurent Fabius – who was prime minister in the 1980s – was seen as the architect of France’s tough foreign policy under President Francois Hollande.

The 69-year-old has been nominated by President Francois Hollande to head France’s constitutional court, which ensures bills comply with the constitution.

It is unclear who will replace Laurent Fabius as foreign minister.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

There had been reports of Laurent Fabius’s imminent departure as part of a wider cabinet reshuffle. He does not say why he was standing down.

Under Laurent Fabius as foreign minister, over the past three years French forces have battled militants in Mali and taken part in air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

He has been a vocal opponent of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Laurent Fabius has also been widely hailed for helping forge an ambitious agreement to tackle global warming, during a UN summit in Paris last year.

French President Francois Hollande has set out a €2 billion job creation plan in an attempt to lift France out of what he called a state of “economic emergency”.

Under a two-year scheme, companies with fewer than 250 staff will get subsidies if they take on a young or unemployed person for six months or more.

In addition, about 500,000 vocational training schemes will be created.

France’s unemployment rate is 10.6%, against a EU average of 9.8% and 4.2% in Germany.

Francois Hollande said money for the plan would come from savings in other areas of public spending.France state of economic emergency

“These €2 billion will be financed without any new taxes of any kind,” said Francois Hollande, who announced the details during an annual speech to business leaders.

“Our country has been faced with structural unemployment for two to three decades and this requires that creating jobs becomes our one and only fight.”

France was facing an “uncertain economic climate and persistent unemployment” and there was an “economic and social emergency”, he said.

Francois Hollande said recently that France’s social emergency, caused by unemployment, was as serious as the emergency caused by terrorism.

The president called on his audience to help “build the economic and social model for tomorrow”.

He also addressed the issue of labor market flexibility.

“Regarding the rules for hiring and laying off, we need to guarantee stability and predictability to both employers and employees. There is room for simplification,” Francois Hollande said.

“The goal is also more security for the company to hire, to adapt its workforce when economic circumstances require, but also more security for the employee in the face of change and mobility”.


President Barack Obama has visited the scene of the Bataclan concert hall attack in Paris, after arriving in the French capital for the UN climate change summit.

Accompanied by President Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Barack Obama laid a single white rose at the venue where 90 people were killed.

Security was stepped up for the visit, with helicopters flying overhead and roads in the area sealed off.

About 150 world leaders are attending the climate change summit which opens on November 30.

Barack Obama’s motorcade went straight to the Bataclan shortly after the US president arrived at Orly Airport.

After placing his rose, Barack Obama stood in silence with his head bowed and his hands clasped in front of him. He then walked away with his arms around Francois Hollande and Anne Hidalgo.Barack Obama Bataclan memorial

Paris terror attacks – claimed by the ISIS – on November 13 left 130 people dead and more than 360 wounded.

Gunmen opened fire or set off bombs at seven locations in Paris.

France is still in a state of emergency after the attacks.

French prosecutors say at least 11 militants in three co-ordinated teams were involved in the killings.

Nine are dead and two suspects – Salah Abdeslam and Mohamed Abrini – are still on the run.

French police have carried out hundreds of raids across the country and raids have also taken place in the Belgian capital Brussels where some of the attackers were from.

On November 29, more than 200 demonstrators were arrested in Paris after clashes with police.

It came as climate change activists formed a human chain along the route of a march that was called off after the attacks.

Some of the demonstrators in Place de la Republique were apparently protesting against France’s state of emergency, and have been disowned by the main organizers.


France is holding a national memorial service for the 130 people who died in a series of attacks in Paris two weeks ago.

Around 1,000 people attended the service in central Paris, including President Francois Hollande, survivors of the attacks and victims’ families.

A minute’s silence was held and the names of all the victims read out.

Attackers with assault rifles and suicide belts targeted a number of sites in the capital. ISIS later said it was behind the assault.

In his speech, President Francois Hollande said France would “do all it can to destroy this army of fanatics”.

“It will operate relentlessly to protect its children,” he said.

Francois Hollande vowed that France would respond with more music, concerts and sporting events, after some of the attacks targeted a concert venue and a stadium.

Among those attending the service were the parents of British victim Nick Alexander, who said that they were now “intrinsically linked” to those who had also lost loved ones.Paris attack memorial service

However, not all the victims’ families accepted the invitation to attend the service at the grand Les Invalides complex that houses a military museum and Napoleon’s tomb.

The family of one victim told French media they had refused, saying not enough had been done to protect the nation in the wake of other attacks earlier this year.

In the November 13 attacks, the gunmen opened fire on restaurants and bars in Paris and stormed the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people were shot dead.

Three more attackers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, after staff denied them entry to a football match between France and Germany.

More than 350 people were injured in the attacks – the worst in recent French history.

At least nine people are believed to have been directly involved in carrying out the latest attacks.

They are all dead, but two more men, including suspect Salah Abdeslam, are still on the run as a huge manhunt continues in France and Belgium.

Some of the attackers – including suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who died in a police raid in Paris last week – had lived in Brussels.


More than 115,000 security personnel have been mobilized in the wake of Friday’s Paris attacks by ISIS, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has announced.

Bernard Cazeneuve said 128 more raids on suspected militants were carried out. French air strikes also hit Islamic State in Syria overnight.

ISIS has said it carried out the attacks on bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and Stade de France stadium in which 129 people died.

A huge manhunt is under way for one of the suspects, Salah Abdeslam.

Salah Abdeslam is believed to have fled across the border to his native Belgium. Belgian police have released more pictures of the wanted man.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Belgium’s government has raised its terror threat level because of the failure so far to arrest Salah Abdeslam.

Bernard Cazeneuve said: “We have mobilized 115,000 police, gendarmes and military over the whole of our national territory to insure the protection of French people.”

He vowed to boost funding for police equipment, which he said had fallen by 17% between 2007 and 2012.

The interior minister added that 128 raids on suspected Islamist militants had been carried out overnight on November 16 to 17. More than 160 raids were made earlier on November 16, with 23 people arrested and dozens of weapons seized.

French media reported that during raids police found a safe house used by the attackers in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris.

Meanwhile France has evoked a previously unused clause in the Treaty on European Union obliging other member states to provide it with “aid and assistance by all means in their power”.

Within minutes, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that all 28 member states had offered “full support and readiness to provide all the aid and assistance needed”.

The measures came as US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Paris.

Speaking on November 16, John Kerry described ISIS as “psychopathic monsters”.

After meeting French President Francois Hollande on November 17, John Kerry said everyone understood that after Paris and other recent attacks “we have to step up efforts to hit them at the core” and improve border security.

President Francois Hollande is due to fly to Washington and Moscow next week for talks with Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.


Speaking during a joint session of both houses of parliament President Francois Hollande has said that France is committed to “destroying” ISIS after last week’s deadly attacks.

Francois Holland said he would table a bill to extend the state of emergency declared after the attacks for three months and would suggest changes to the constitution.

France’s military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria will also intensify.

ISIS says it carried out the attacks on bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and Stade de France in which 129 people died.Francois Hollande speech Paris attacks

Francois Hollande said the constitution needed to be amended as “we need an appropriate tool we can use without having to resort to the state of emergency”.

He said he would travel to meet Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in the coming days to discuss action against the group.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris on November 16 to show support for “America’s oldest friend” against what he called “psychopathic monsters”.

At a G20 summit in Turkey, world leaders promised tighter co-operation in the wake of the attacks.

Barack Obama said the US and France had made a new agreement on intelligence sharing but said US military advisers thought sending ground troops to combat ISIS would be a mistake.

In his address, Francois Hollande reiterated his opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power but said “our enemy in Syria is Daesh [ISIS]”.

He promised more resources for the security forces and said the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier would be sent on November 19 to bolster the military campaign against ISIS.

On November 15, French aircraft attacked Raqqa, ISIS stronghold in Syria. French officials said 10 jets had dropped 20 guided bombs targeting sites including a command centre, a recruitment centre for jihadists, a munitions depot and a training camp.

ISIS has issued a statement saying the raid targeted empty locations and that there were no casualties.


According to French chief prosecutor Francois Molins, three teams of attackers were involved in the Paris attack in which 129 people were killed and more than 350 wounded.

“We have to find out where they came from… and how they were financed,” he told reporters.

Francois Molins said seven attackers had been killed, and that all had been heavily armed and wearing explosive belts.

Last night’s attacks, claimed by ISIS, hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars.

Francois Molins also said the arrests of three men in Belgium on November 14 were linked to the attacks.

Belgian PM Charles Michel said investigators were trying to establish whether one of the suspects picked up near Brussels may have been in Paris on Friday evening.

Speaking in Paris on November 14, Francois Molins told reporters: “We can say at this stage of the investigation there were probably three co-ordinated teams of terrorists behind this barbaric act.”

He also confirmed that one of the dead attackers had been identified as a 30-year-old Frenchman who had a criminal record but had never spent time in jail.

The man came from the town of Courcouronnes, 15 miles west of Paris. He had been identified by the security services as having been radicalized but had never been implicated in a counter-terrorism investigation.

Francois Molins said all seven militants had used Kalashnikov assault rifles and the same type of explosive vests.

He also gave details about the state of the investigation, which he said was at a very early stage.

The prosecutor said police were focusing on two vehicles. One was a black Seat used by gunmen at two of the attacks and still untraced.Paris attacks prosecutor

The other is a black Volkswagen Polo with Belgian registration plates found at the concert venue that was targeted.

He said this had been rented to a Frenchman living in Belgium who was identified in a spot check by police on Friday morning as he drove across the Belgian border with two others.

A Syrian passport was found next to the body of one of three suicide bombers who struck near the Stade de France stadium during Friday’s game, Francois Molins said.

A Greek minister says the passport belonged to a Syrian refugee who passed through the island of Leros. An Egyptian passport has also been linked to the attacks.

President Francois Hollande imposed a state of emergency after the worst peacetime attack in France since World War Two. It is also the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings.

The violence began soon after 21:00 local time as people were enjoying a Friday night out in Paris.

A gunman opened fire on Le Carillon bar in the rue Alibert, near the Place de la Republique, before heading across the road to Le Petit Cambodge (Little Cambodia), killing 15 people.

A few streets away, diners sitting on the terrace of La Casa Nostra pizzeria in rue de la Fontaine au Roi, were also fired on, with the loss of five lives.

Frnacois Molins said 19 people were killed at the Belle Equipe bar, while the toll from the attack on the Bataclan concert hall stood at 89.

At around the same time, on the northern outskirts of Paris, 80,000 people who had gathered to watch France play Germany at the Stade de France heard three explosions outside the stadium.

President Francois Hollande was among the spectators and was whisked away after the first blast.

Investigators found the bodies of three suicide bombers around the Stade de France, Francois Molins said.

The 1,500-seat Bataclan concert hall suffered the worst of last night’s attacks. Gunmen opened fire on a sell-out gig by rock group Eagles of Death Metal, killing 89 people.

Within an hour, security forces had stormed the concert hall and all four attackers there were dead. Three had blown themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police.

ISIS released a statement on November 14 saying “eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles” had carried out the attacks on “carefully chosen” targets, and were a response to France’s involvement in the air strikes on ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq.

Shortly before, President Francois Hollande said France had been “attacked in a cowardly shameful and violent way”.

“So France will be merciless in its response to the Islamic State militants,” he said, vowing to “use all means within the law.. on every battleground here and abroad together with our allies”.

Many official buildings as well as Disneyland Paris have been closed, sports events have been cancelled and large gatherings have been banned for the next five days.


French President Francois Hollande has declared a national state of emergency and announced the country’s borders have been tightened after more than 120 people were killed in a night of gun and bomb attacks in Paris.

At least 80 people were reported killed after gunmen burst into the Bataclan concert hall and took dozens hostage.

The siege ended when security forces stormed the building.

People were shot dead at bars and restaurants at five other sites in Paris. Eight attackers are reported to have been killed.

French police believed all of the gunmen were dead but it was unclear if any accomplices were still on the run after the string of near-simultaneous attacks.

Paris residents have been asked to stay indoors and about 1,500 military personnel are being deployed across the city.

The gunmen’s motives were not immediately confirmed, but one witness at the Bataclan heard one of the attackers appear to express support for ISIS.

“It’s Hollande’s fault, he shouldn’t have intervened in Syria!” the man shouted, according to French news agency AFP, citing the French president’s decision to take part in Western air strikes on ISIS.

Paris saw three days of attacks in early January, when Islamist gunmen murdered 18 people after attacking satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman on patrol.Paris attacks November 2015

The attack on the 1,500-seat Bataclan hall was by far the deadliest of last night’s attacks. Gunmen opened fire on concert-goers watching American rock group Eagles of Death Metal. The event had been sold out.

The series of attacks not far from the Place de la Republique and the Place de la Bastille struck at the heart of the capital when cafes, bars and restaurants were at their busiest.

Customers were singled out at venues including a pizza restaurant and a Cambodian restaurant.

The other target was the Stade de France, on the northern fringe of Paris, where President Hollande and 80,000 other spectators were watching a friendly international between France and Germany, with a TV audience of millions more.

President Francois Hollande was whisked to safety after the first of at least two explosions just outside the venue to convene an emergency cabinet meeting. Three attackers were reportedly killed there.

As the extent of the bloodshed became clear, Francois Hollande went on national TV to announce a state of emergency for the first time in France since 2005. The decree enables the authorities to close public places and impose curfews and restrictions on the movement of traffic and people.

Within an hour, security forces had stormed the concert hall and all four attackers there were dead. Three had blown themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police.

Another attacker was killed in a street in eastern Paris, reports said.

Speaking after arriving at the concert hall, Francois Hollande said the attackers would be fought “without mercy”.

President Barack Obama spoke of “an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians”.

Paris Mayor Ann Hidalgo announced that all schools, museums, libraries, gyms, swimming pools and markets would be shut on November 14.

At least 40 people have been killed in several shootings in Paris, as well as explosions near the Stade de France.

According to French media, at least 15 people have been killed near the Bataclan arts centre. A hostage taking is under way, with reports of up to 60 held.

At least one man opened fire at a restaurant in the 11th district, causing several several casualties.

Three explosions are also reported outside a bar near the Stade de France.Paris shootings 2015

France was hosting Germany in a friendly and the match continued. It has now ended

An eyewitness told Liberation he had heard more than 100 rounds being fired at a cafe in rue de Charonne.

There are reports of up to six gunmen involved.

Reports say French President Francois Hollande was watching the match at the Stade de France and has been moved to safety.

President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve have gone to the interior ministry.


French President Francois Hollande presented three Americans and a British man who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train with the Legion d’honneur at the Elysee Palace, France’s top honor.

Two other unnamed passengers will receive the honor at a later date.

Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Briton Chris Norman and two other passengers overpowered a suspected radical Islamist on a high-speed train bound for Paris on August 21.

French authorities are questioning the suspect, Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25.

President Francois Hollande pinned the medals on the chests of the four passengers at the ceremony in Paris on August 24.

Before the awards, the president said: “We are here to honor four men who, thanks to their bravery, managed to save lives. They showed what could be done in terrible circumstances.

“In the name of France, I would like to thank you. The whole world admires your bravery. It should be an example to all of us and inspire us. You put your lives at risk in order to defend freedom.”French train attack heroes decorated by Francois Hollande

Francois Hollande added: “A terrorist decided to commit an attack. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives.

“You gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and thus in hope.”

Belgian PM Charles Michel and the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, attended the ceremony, along with the head of the French rail firm, SNCF.

The Legion d’honneur was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The award is divided into five categories and the passengers are expected to receive the chevalier, the most commonly awarded.

A French-American passenger who was wounded in the attack, and a French citizen who first encountered the gunman and tried to overpower him, will receive the honor later.

Francois Hollande named the French-American as 51-year-old Mark Moogalian, who is still in hospital. The other man wishes to remain anonymous.

The Americans spoke on August 23 about the incident.

Spencer Stone, an off-duty US airman, said he had just woken from a deep sleep when he saw the gunman and moved to restrain him.

He was the first of the three to reach the gunman. He was cut in the neck and on the eyebrow, and his thumb was almost sliced off.

Spencer Stone also tended to Mark Moogalian, who had been shot in the neck.

Alek Skarlatos, a member of the US National Guard, said his initial reaction was “mostly just gut instinct”, and that military training had only played a role in providing medical help and making sure there were no accomplices.

Anthony Sadler said: “The gunman would have been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. I want that lesson to be learned, in times of terror like that, to please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.”

British Chris Norman, an IT expert, said he helped the Americans subdue the gunman because he thought he was “probably going to die anyway”.

Under French law, authorities have until Tuesday evening to question the suspect.

Sophie David, a lawyer assigned to the case for Ayoub El-Khazzani, said the Moroccan was “dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism” and that he had said he found the weapons in a Belgian park and wanted to rob passengers.

Ayoub El-Khazzani’s father, Mohamed el-Khazzani, told the Daily Telegraph in Algeciras, Spain, that his son was a “good boy” interested in “football and fishing”.

The suspect was flagged up to French authorities by Spanish counterparts in February 2014.

He is reported to have lived in France, Spain, and Belgium and to have travelled to Syria.

Security aboard the high-speed Thalys service on which the incident took place is being stepped up. The trains link major cities in the Netherlands and Belgium to Paris.

Patrols and security checks will also be boosted at international train stations.


US ambassador to Paris has been summoned by the French foreign ministry over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks reports the NSA spied on Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006 and 2012.

President Francois Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, added that the US was “not targeting and will not target the communications of Mr. Hollande”.

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders.NSA spying on France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims, French officials said.

Jane Hartley is expected to visit the foreign ministry in Paris on June 24.

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after an emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims.

WikiLeaks began publishing the files on June 23, under the heading “Espionnage Elysee” – a reference to the French presidential palace.

It said the secret files “derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications” of the three French presidents as well as French ministers and the ambassador to the US.

The WikiLeaks files have now been published by France’s Liberation newspaper and the Mediapart investigative website.

One of the files, dated 2012, is about Francois Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Nicolas Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement.

A file dated 2010 suggests that French officials were aware that the US was spying upon them and intended to complain about it.

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

France’s President Francois Hollande has warned that there is “little time” to prevent Greece from leaving the eurozone.

On a visit to Algiers, Francois Hollande said the ball was firmly in Greece’s court.

“It’s not France’s position to impose on Greece further cuts to smaller pensions, but rather to ask that they propose alternatives,” the French president said on June 15.

“We have to get to work… everything must be done in order that Greece remains in the eurozone.”

Talks with Greek and EU officials in Brussels on June 14 failed to reach an agreement that would release bailout funds to Greece.

Eurozone finance ministers will meet on June 18, but Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he did not plan to present new proposals at the meeting.

Yanis Varoufakis told German newspaper Bild: “The Eurogroup [of eurozone finance ministers] is not the right place to present proposals which haven’t been discussed and negotiated on a lower level before.”

The prospects of a Greek default in just over two weeks’ time has worried investors.Francois Holland on Grexit

On June 15, the FTSE 100 in London fell 1.1% to 6,710 points, while the DAX in Frankfurt lost 1.9% and the CAC 40 in Paris shed 1.75%.

In the US, the Dow Jones closed down 0.6%, or 107 points, at 17,791.

Athens’ benchmark ATG index, which fell 5.9% on Friday, fell a further 4.7% on June 15.

Greek bank stocks were hit hardest, with National Bank of Greece closed down 5.7% and Bank of Piraeus was 12.2% lower.

Europe wants Greece to make spending cuts worth €2 billion to secure a deal that will unlock bailout funds.

Greece must repay more than €1.5 billion of loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the end of June and promise further economic reforms to receive about €7 billion of bailout funds.

The funds have been delayed by three months amid growing fears the government will soon run out of money.

Sticking points between Greece and the IMF and EU remain reforms to VAT and pensions.

European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt rejected an assertion that creditors were seeking pension or wages cuts. They only wanted Athens to phase out early retirement and remove “incorrect incentives for early retirement”.

Greece had already agreed to specific targets for its primary surplus, she said, with 1% of GDP this year, followed by 2% in 2016 and 3.5% by 2018.

An opinion poll for Greece’s Mega TV found that more than two thirds of respondents believe the Greek government will have to back down, with just 19.4% thinking the lenders will agree to further concessions.

On June 15, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras warned Athens would stand its ground until its creditors become “realistic”.

Alexis Tsipras called on the IMF and EU to “meditate” on the idea that: “We are not only the heirs of a long history of struggle. We are also carrying on our shoulders the dignity of a people, and the hope of the peoples of Europe.”


Francois Hollande has arrived in Havana to meet former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a historic trip to the Communist island.

The French president is using the one-day trip to Cuba to build business and diplomatic relations five months after a detente between Havana and Washington.

Fidel Castro and Francois Hollande’s meeting was due at 15:00 local time on May 11, away from TV cameras, said the Elysee Palace.

Francois Hollande is the first French president to visit Cuba since 1898.

Speaking at the University of Havana, Francois Hollande said France would do its utmost to ensure that “the measures which have so badly harmed Cuba’s development can finally be repealed”.Francois Hollande in Cuba

Francois Hollande was referring to the US trade embargo with Cuba, which remains in place, although relations between the US and Cuba have improved in recent months.

He was due to meet his current Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro’s brother and successor Raul, later on Monday evening.

The visit is the first trip by a Western head of state to the Communist island since the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the US was announced in December 2014.

Francois Hollande announced plans to double the number of scholarships to enable Cuban students to continue their studies in France, as part of attempts to increase academic and scientific co-operation between the two nations.

Earlier on Monday, Francois Hollande bestowed France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, on the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The Cuban Catholic Church has acted as a mediator between dissidents and the Communist government.

Unlike some other European countries, France has long maintained reasonably good relations with Cuba and wants to benefit from the new economic openness.

After landing at Havana airport, Francois Hollande said the visit was a moment of “great emotion”.

Before arriving, Francois Hollande told reporters that France sought to “be the first among European nations, and the first among Western nations, to be able to say to the Cubans that we will be at their side if they decide themselves to take needed steps toward opening up”.

A number of high-ranking US and European politicians have visited Cuba since December 17, when the US and Cuba announced they would move towards re-establishing diplomatic ties.

They include New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini and top diplomats from Japan and Russia.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s Conservative UMP Party and its allies appear to have come first in the final round of French local elections.

The UMP appeared set to secure more than 60 local councils, exit polls suggested, up from 41.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front also appeared to have made gains, while the ruling Socialists and their allies may lose about 30 departments.

These elections are seen as a test case ahead of 2017’s presidential election.

Paris and Lyon, France’s two biggest cities, were excluded from Sunday’s election.

The National Front appeared to have won a significant number of seats in Sunday’s second round of elections, but it was not clear if it had gained control of any councils, the exit polls said.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Marine Le Pen hailed a “historic” day for the FN, saying: “I thank all our voters for this magnificent success.”

PM Manuel Valls admitted that the Socialist Party had lost ground, and said that the rise in the National Front’s popularity showed a lasting change in France’s political landscape.

He vowed to redouble efforts to boost the economy.

Nicolas Sarkozy said voters had rejected the policies of his successor as president, Francois Hollande.

“Never has our political family won so many councils,” he told supporters.

Francois Hollande has suffered from slumping personal ratings, boosted only briefly by his response to January’s terror attacks in Paris.

French voters have been electing representatives in 101 departments, or counties, charged with issues like schools and welfare.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande have reached an agreement aimed at ending the fighting in Ukraine following marathon talks in Minsk, Belarus.

The leaders announced that a ceasefire would begin on February 15.

The deal also includes weapon withdrawals and prisoner exchanges, but key issues remain to be settled.

The pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have signed the agreement. Thousands of people have died in almost a year of fighting in the region.

The deal is very similar to a ceasefire agreed in September 2014, which unraveled very quickly.

Key unresolved issues include the status of Debaltseve, a government-held town surrounded by rebels, where fighting is still going on.

Further talks will also be held on self-rule in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk separatist regions.

President Francois Hollande said he and Chancellor Angela Merkel would ask their European Union partners to support the deal at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Angela Merkel said there was now a “glimmer of hope” but big hurdles remained, while Francois Hollande said “the coming hours will be decisive”.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said European leaders in Brussels would be discussing ways to “help and sustain the agreement”, but she ruled out the threat of fresh sanctions on Russia.

“I think today the issue is not going to be discussion of further sanctions… but rather positive ways the EU can contribute to make this first step just one of many others,” she told reporters in Brussels.

Photo RT

Photo RT

The US said the deal was a “significant step” but expressed concern over reports of continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, saying it was “inconsistent with the spirit of the accord”.

Last week, the US refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine if diplomacy failed, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.

Speaking after the talks ended, Vladimir Putin told Russian television: “It wasn’t the best night for me, but it’s a good morning.”

Petro Poroshenko – who had accused Russia of making “unacceptable” demands – said that “despite tension and pressure” Ukraine had not succumbed to “ultimatums”.

Russia rejects accusations by Ukraine and Western powers that it is supplying weapons and personnel to the rebels – who are seeking independence for the areas they control.

The separatists gave the agreement a cautious welcome.

In Luhansk, rebel leader Igor Plotnitskiy said: “We hope that thanks to our efforts today, Ukraine will change and stop firing at civilians, hospitals and socially important facilities.”

Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said Kiev would be to blame if the ceasefire collapsed and warned that there would “be no meetings and no new agreements”.

More than 5,400 people have been killed since the conflict began. There has been a dramatic rise in casualties in recent days, with 263 civilians killed in populated areas between January 31 and February 5.

Minsk agreement includes:

  • Ceasefire to begin at 00:01 local time on February 15
  • Heavy weapons to be withdrawn, beginning on February 16 and completed in two weeks
  • All prisoners to be released; amnesty for those involved in fighting
  • Withdrawal of all foreign troops and weapons from Ukrainian territory. Disarmament of all illegal groups
  • Ukraine to allow resumption of normal life in rebel areas, by lifting restrictions
  • Constitutional reform to enable decentralization for rebel regions by the end of 2015
  • Ukraine to control border with Russia if conditions met by the end of 2015 [youtube wfjiPYru3T0 650]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have announced a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine starting with February 15.

“We have managed to agree on the main issues,” Vladimir Putin said after marathon talks with Petro Poroshenko, as well German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Minsk, Belarus.Minsk talks Ukraine ceasefire 2015

President Francois Hollande said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the east of Ukraine.

The meeting in Belarus – which began on February 11 – was focused on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone in Eastern Ukraine.

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President Vladimir Putin has renewed the blame on the West for the Ukrainian crisis, as he works on Franco-German proposals to end fighting between the government and pro-Russia rebels.

Western countries had broken pledges not to expand NATO and forced countries to choose between them and Russia, Vladimir Putin told an Egyptian newspaper.

The comments come amid new hopes of a peace deal on February 11.

Russia denies accusations of sending troops and supplying the rebels.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 5,300 lives and driven 1.5 million people from their homes.

At least nine Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past 24 hours, officials say.

Photo RT

Photo RT

Fighting is said to be intense around the town of Debaltseve, near the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to brief President Barack Obama in Washington on February 9 on the peace plan Germany and France have tried to reach with Ukraine and Russia.

The Washington talks come as the US considers sending weapons to the Ukrainian government.

Angela Merkel told a security conference at the weekend that she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

Secretary of State John Kerry has denied any rift with EU leaders, saying: “I keep hearing people trying to create one. We are united, we are working closely together.”

Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have been leading efforts to revive the Minsk peace plan, which collapsed amid fighting over the winter.

The detailed proposals have not been released but the plan is thought to include a demilitarized zone of 50-70km (31-44 miles) around the current front line.

The four leaders have announced plans to meet in Minsk on February 11 – provided agreement is reached in the meantime in talks in Berlin.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on February 9 there were hopes for a settlement but nothing had been agreed.

At the start of a visit to Egypt, President Putin renewed his attack on Western countries for their “hollow” promises not to expand NATO to include former Soviet countries, and therefore ignoring Russian interests.

There had been attempts, Vladimir Putin told Egypt’s al-Ahram newspaper, “to tear states which had been parts of the former USSR [Soviet Union] off Russia and to prompt them to make an artificial choice <<between Russia and Europe>>”.

“We repeatedly warned the US and its Western allies about harmful consequences of their interference in Ukrainian domestic affairs but they did not listen to our opinion,” the Russian leader said.

Vladimir Putin went on to accuse them of supporting a “coup d’etat in Kiev” – a reference to the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last year.

Viktor Yanukovych lost power amid protests over his decision to scrap a deal that would have seen Ukraine establish closer ties with the European Union.

Since then, Russia has annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and rebels in the east have sought to establish full control over the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

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Vladimir Putin is to discuss a peace plan for east Ukraine with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders by phone.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are pushing a plan to end bloody fighting between government and rebel forces.

Meeting the Russian president in Moscow on February 6, they agreed to four-way talks with Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko on February 8.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the east since April.

Thousands more have been injured and more than a million have fled their homes.

Ukraine’s military reported continued shelling on February 7, accusing the rebels of preparing new offensives, while the rebels accused the government itself of attacking along the line dividing their forces.

Petro Poroshenko has called on the West for support up to and including weapons.Ukraine peace plan Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko

He made the plea at a security conference in Munich on February 7, when he brandished passports that he said were those of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Russia denies intervening directly in eastern Ukraine.

Angela Merkel told the conference in Munich that there was no guarantee diplomacy would succeed but it was “definitely worth trying”.

The plan is thought to be an attempt to revive a failed ceasefire deal signed in Minsk, in Belarus, in September. Since then, the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.

Francois Hollande said it would include a demilitarized zone of 31-44 miles around the current front line.

The French leader has described the Franco-German plan as “one of the last chances” to end the conflict.

“If we fail to find a lasting peace agreement, we know the scenario perfectly well – it has a name, it is called war,” Francois Hollande said.

The US is said to be considering pleas to send weapons to Ukraine.

Angela Merkel, however, said she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

The statement put Angela Merkel in opposition to NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force general Philip Breedlove, who told reporters that Western allies should not “preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option”.

Vice-President Joe Biden said the US would “continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself”.

“Let me be clear – we do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine,” Joe Biden said.

“But let me be equally clear – we do not believe Russia has the right to do what they’re doing.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has held “constructive” talks with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on efforts to end the conflict in east Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman says.

Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel met for more than five hours.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande had brought to Moscow a peace proposal whose details have not been released.

Russia is accused of arming pro-Russian separatists – a claim it denies.

The Kremlin also rejects claims by Ukraine and the West that its regular troops are fighting alongside the rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Clashes have left nearly 5,400 people dead since April 2014, the UN says.

A September ceasefire, signed in Minsk in Belarus, has failed to stop the violence. Since then the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The peace proposal Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande took to Moscow on February 6 was crafted with the Ukrainian government the day before.

After the two leaders’ discussions with Vladimir Putin, French officials told AFP they had been “constructive and substantial”.

Dmitry Peskov said work was continuing on a joint document. Further talks will be held by phone on February 7, he added.

Earlier, Francois Hollande said the aim was not just a ceasefire but a “comprehensive agreement” – although Angela Merkel said it was “totally open” whether that could be achieved.

Major questions any plan would have to address include the route of any new ceasefire line – given the rebel advances of recent weeks – how to enforce it, and the future status of the conflict zone.

Moscow is still denying any direct role in the conflict, while Kiev insists above all that Ukraine must remain united, our correspondent says.

Washington is considering Ukrainian pleas for better weaponry to fend off the rebels, raising European fears of an escalation in the conflict and spurring the latest peace bid.

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French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting Russia’s Vladimir Putin to try to end escalating fighting in Ukraine.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are taking to Moscow a peace proposal crafted in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on February 5, but details have not been released.

Meanwhile a truce has allowed civilians to leave Debaltseve, at the heart of the latest fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is accused of arming pro-Russian separatists – a claim it denies.

The Kremlin also rejects claims by Ukraine and the West that its regular troops are fighting alongside the rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Clashes have left nearly 5,400 people dead since April 2014, the UN says.

A September ceasefire, signed in Minsk, Belarus, has failed to stop the violence. Since then the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande in Moscow peace talks

Before he left for Moscow on February 6, Francois Hollande said the goal of his visit was not just a ceasefire, but a “comprehensive agreement” – though Angela Merkel said it was “totally open” whether that could be achieved.

Meanwhile Vice-President Joe Biden accused Russia of “continuing to escalate the conflict” and “ignoring every agreement”.

Joe Biden was speaking in Brussels, where he is meeting top EU officials.

He accused Vladimir Putin of continuing “to call for new peace plans as his tanks roll through the Ukrainian countryside”.

He said Russia could “not be allowed to redraw the map of Europe”.

Ukraine is also set to dominate an annual multi-lateral security conference in Munich.

The fighting has intensified in recent weeks after a rebel offensive, and a temporary truce was declared in Debaltseve on February 6, where Ukrainian forces are fighting to hold the town against surrounding rebels.

Convoys of buses travelled to the town on Friday to evacuate civilians who had been forced to shelter underground from the bombing.

They were escorted by monitors from the OSCE security watchdog, Reuters reported.

Washington is considering Ukrainian pleas for better weaponry to fend off the rebels, raising European fears of an escalation in the conflict and spurring the latest peace bid.

On February5, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel examined the peace proposal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, without releasing any details.

Moscow says it is ready for “constructive dialogue” – though still denying any direct role in the conflict – while Kiev insists above all that Ukraine must remain united.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin would discuss “the fastest possible end to the civil war in south-eastern Ukraine”.

Some 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since April 2014, when the rebels seized a big swathe of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kiev to present a new peace initiative.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is also in Kiev, said the US wanted a diplomatic solution, but would not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels has killed more than 5,000 people since last April.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and sending regular troops across the border.

Russia denies direct involvement but says some Russian volunteers are fighting alongside the rebels.

Speaking at a joint news conference with John Kerry, Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk said: “We need to get peace. But we will never consider anything that undermines territorial integrity… of Ukraine.”

John Kerry accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, saying that Russia had been acting with “impunity”, crossing the Ukrainian border “at will with weapons [and] personnel”.

“We are choosing a peaceful solution through diplomacy – but you cannot have a one-sided peace,” he said.

John Kerry added that President Barack Obama was still “reviewing all options”, including the possibility of providing “defensive weapons” to Ukraine, due to the dangerous escalation in violence.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The US is currently only providing “non-lethal” assistance.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said any decision by the US to supply weapons to Ukraine would “inflict colossal damage to Russian-American relations”.

Several senior Western officials have also expressed concern at the prospect of US arms being sent to Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier likened the option to “throwing more weapons on the bonfire”, while NATO commander Philip Breedlove said governments must take into account that the move “could trigger a more strident reaction from Russia”.

Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel arrived in Kiev on February 5, in what appeared to be a speedily arranged visit.

They met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who thanked them for their visit at “a very urgent time”.

Francois Hollande had said that he and Angela Merkel would present a new peace proposal based on the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine, which could be “acceptable to all”.

However, he warned that diplomacy “cannot go on indefinitely”.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 6.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin would discuss “the fastest possible end to the civil war in south-eastern Ukraine”.

Correspondents say it is not clear how the latest attempt will differ from previous, aborted peace efforts – but there is speculation that Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel hope to discourage the US from supplying Ukraine with weapons.

The talks in Kiev come as NATO unveils details of a plan to bolster its military presence in Eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.

A new rapid reaction “spearhead” force of up to 5,000 troops is expected to be announced, with its lead units able to deploy at two days’ notice.

NATO is also establishing a network of small command centers in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, officials said on February 5 that the European Union is adding 19 people, including five Russians, to its sanctions list over the Ukraine crisis.

Nine “entities” will also be targeted by the sanctions, which were reportedly agreed at an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers last week.

Fighting has intensified in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks amid a rebel offensive.

The fiercest fighting has been near the town of Debaltseve, where rebels are trying to surround Ukrainian troops. The town is a crucial rail hub linking the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Some 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since last April, when the rebels seized a big swathe of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

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Twelve people have been arrested in the Paris region over last week’s attacks that killed 17, reports say.

They are being questioned about “possible logistical support”, such as weapons or vehicles, that they could have given the gunmen, a judicial source told AFP.

Police conducted raids in five towns in the Paris region, iTele reported.

Last week’s violence began with an attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Twelve people were killed at the Charlie Hebdo offices by two gunmen, and four by another gunman at a kosher supermarket. The following day a policewoman was shot dead while responding to a traffic accident.

All three gunmen were later shot dead by police.

In the latest development, police carried out raids in the towns of Montrouge, Grigny, Chatenay-Malabry, Epinay-sur-Seine and Fleury-Merogis overnight, iTele reported.

On January 16, the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris was evacuated for an hour over a bomb threat. Services resumed at 09:00 AM local time, SNCF said, without giving further details.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Spain has also launched an inquiry after it was revealed that one of the Paris gunmen, Amedy Coulibaly, had visited Madrid days before the attacks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris to pay tribute to those killed in the attacks.

He hugged French President Francois Hollande, saying: “We share the pain and the horror of everything that you went through.”

Francois Hollande said: “You’ve been victims yourself of an exceptional terrorist attack on September 11 [2001]. You know what it means for a country.”

“We must find together appropriate responses,” Francois Hollande added.

John Kerry laid wreaths outside HyperCacher supermarket and the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Later on Friday, John Kerry will meet Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo for a remembrance ceremony.

US media had criticized the American government for not sending a high-profile representative to last Sunday’s unity march in Paris, which was attended by more than 40 world leaders. The US ambassador to France did attend the rally.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that John Kerry had “apologized” for missing the unity march, AFP reported.

John Kerry said that he had been unable to attend because he was visiting Bulgaria and India at the time.

Meanwhile, German police say they have arrested two men following raids early on Friday.

One of the men was suspected of leading an extremist group of Turkish and Russian nationals, police added.

The group was suspected of “preparing a serious act of violence against the state in Syria”, police said, but there was “no indication that the group was preparing attacks inside Germany”.

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More than 40 world leaders and 3.7 million people have taken part in unity marches across France after 17 people died during three days of deadly attacks in Paris.

Up to 1.6 million are estimated to have taken to the streets of Paris.

World leaders joined the start of the Paris march, linking arms in an act of solidarity.

The marchers wanted to demonstrate unity after the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and kosher supermarket HyperCacher.

The French government said the rally turnout was the highest on record.

The rally, led by relatives of the victims of last week’s attacks, began at the Place de la Republique and concluded in the Place de la Nation.

Several other French cities also held rallies. The interior ministry said turnout across France was at least 3.7 million, including up to 1.6 million in Paris – where sheer numbers made an exact tally difficult.

World leaders, including UK PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, EU President Donald Tusk, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II joined the beginning of the Paris march.

Photo RT

Photo RT

“Paris is the capital of the world today,” French President Francois Hollande said.

The leaders observed a minute’s silence before the march began.

About 2,000 police officers and 1,350 soldiers – including elite marksmen on rooftops – were deployed in the capital to protect participants.

The Paris march was split into two routes for security purposes.

Marchers chanted “liberte” (“freedom”) and “Charlie”, in reference to Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Some waved French flags, cheered, and sang the national anthem.

Solidarity marches were also held in world cities including London, Madrid, Cairo, Montreal, Beirut, Sydney and Tokyo.

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