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Germany Apologizes for WWI Massacre

May 6, 2001 GMT

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Germany officially apologized Sunday for the massacre of almost 700 civilians by German troops in the Belgium town of Dinant during the opening weeks of World War I.

``We have to recognize the injustices that were committed, and ask forgiveness. That is what I am doing with a deep conviction today,″ Walter Kolbow, Germany’s state secretary for defense, told a ceremony in the southern town.

``I apologize to you all for the injustice the Germans committed in this town.″

The killing of 674 men, woman and children in Dinant after German troops occupied the town in August 1914 outraged world opinion.

At the time, German authorities said their troops reacted after being shot at by civilian snipers.

Resentment at the killings remained deep in the town, which until Sunday had refused to fly the German flag alongside those of other European Union nations on the bridge connecting both sides of the town across the River Meuse.

The German flag was hoisted alongside the others Sunday at the ceremony that was also attended by Belgium’s defense minister Andre Flahaut, World War II veterans, and the ambassadors of Germany, France and Britain.

Some residents objected to the ceremony, but Dinant mayor Richard Founaux said the time had come for reconciliation.

``Our responsibility, indeed our duty, is to contribute to the building of European unity,″ Founaux said. ``I’m proud to accept this apology″