German WWI graves smashed in France on peace anniversary
The graves of 40 German soldiers who died during World War I have been vandalised at a military cemetery in northern France, officials say.
Wooden crosses were pulled up from the Saint-Etienne-a-Arnes cemetery and some were later used for a camp fire.
France condemned the "terrible desecration", launching an inquiry.
It happened shortly before the leaders of France and Germany met to mark the 50th anniversary of the formal post-war reconciliation.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are attending the main ceremony in the city of Reims, about 40km (25) east of where the grave attack happened.
The German soldiers whose graves were vandalised were all aged between 14 and 18, French officials said.
"An inquiry is under way and all means are being employed to find those responsible for this terrible desecration," the interior ministry said in a statement.
A spokesman at the local prefecture said it was not immediately clear whether the it was a "determined action" or the work of "irresponsible people", the AFP news agency reports.
The spokesman added that there was no sign of any political message after the attack - just hours before Mr Hollande and Mrs Merkel met in Reims' imposing cathedral.
The reconciliation between the former foes was symbolically achieved during the 1962 meeting between the then leaders of France and Germany, Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer.
On the eve of the meeting, Mrs Merkel said the pair "dared to launch a new beginning, an extraordinary new start that led to one of the world's most important friendships".
She said it was "an essential step on the road for reunited Europe".
Mr Hollande said in a newspaper interview on Saturday that it was important for the two countries to work together with other eurozone members to tackle the debt crisis.
It is a friendship fraught with difficulties, the BBC's Steve Evans in Berlin reports.
France and Germany disagree on economics, with President Hollande balancing budgets by raising taxes on the wealthy and Chancellor Merkel seeing tighter spending as important, our correspondent adds.
Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18758900 (BBC News, 8th July 2012).