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French, German Leaders Mark Centenary Of Battle At Verdun

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have marked the centenary of the longest and bloodiest battle of World War I -- the battle of Verdun in eastern France.

The leaders on May 29 first visited a German military cemetery at Consenvoye, just north of Verdun.

Later, at the Ossuary Douaumont near Verdun, Merkel said an estimated 300,000 soldiers from Germany and France who were killed during the 10-month battle were "victims of bigotry and nationalism, of blindness and political failure."

Merkel said the best way to commemorate those soldiers is to bear in mind "the lessons that Europe drew from the catastrophes of the 20th century -- the ability and willingness to recognize how necessary it is not to seal ourselves off but to be open to each other."

Hollande on May 29 called for the "protection of our common house, Europe."

He said it is Europe's role "to fight against terrorism, fanaticism, radicalization" while at the same time welcoming “populations who are fleeing massacres."

The battle of Verdun began on February 21, 1916 and continued through December 18, 1916.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, and dpa