Australia PM Abbott to visit France for D-Day event

Australia PM Abbott to visit France for D-Day event

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will visit France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, before travelling to the United States and Canada, he said Saturday.

Abbott said he would join French President Francois Hollande and other heads of government at the British services at the Bayeux Cathedral and Cemetery and the international ceremony at Sword Beach, Ouistreham.

"More than 3,000 Australians fought in support of the D-Day landings, 18 were killed," Abbott said in a statement, adding that seven Australian D-Day veterans would accompany him.

The commemorations marking a pivotal 24 hours in World War II will this year be attended by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama.

No effort has been spared to ensure this year's ceremonies are a fitting tribute to the 156,000-plus troops who waded or parachuted onto French soil on June 6, 1944, approximately 4,500 of whom were dead by the day's end.

Abbott said he would also visit the Western Front, where 295,000 Australians served between 1916 and 1918, and 46,000 lost their lives.

"I would like to see a greater focus on Australia's role on the western front," he said, adding he would visit the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, where Canberra is considering building an interpretive centre, and Pozieres.

Following the visit to France, Abbott said he would travel to Canada for talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the US to meet President Obama.

"The US and Canada are important strategic partners of Australia," Abbott said.

"I will be accompanied by a business delegation to strengthen trade and business ties between our countries," he said of the trip which will include Ottawa, New York, Washington, Houston and Pearl Harbor.

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