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World remembers sacrifice of WWI lost generation

world Updated: Nov 11, 2009 20:49 IST

French and German leaders stood side by side in Paris to honour the fallen of World War I on Wednesday, as countries around the globe held ceremonies to remember the millions who died in the conflict.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel rekindled the flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe and vowed that never again would their nations wage war on each other.

"We are not commemorating the victory of one people over another but an ordeal that was equally terrible for each side," Sarkozy declared before a military honour guard and crowds of well-wishers.

Far from being "The War to End All Wars", the 1914-18 conflict merely set the tone for the 20th century's litany of brutality, although in terms of sheer mass killing on the battlefield it has since rarely been equalled.

Much of the fighting -- which pitted Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey against France, Britain, Russia, Italy and, from 1917, the United States -- was in northern France and characterised by horrific trench warfare.

German leaders have attended World War I memorial events in France before, most notably when chancellor Helmut Kohl took president Francois Mitterrand's hand in Verdun, the scene of one of the fiercest battles of the war.

But Merkel's visit was the first time a German leader had attended the Armistice Day ceremony in Paris marking the defeat of Germany and was seen as a signal of ever closer ties between the two neighbours.