Defiant Chirac parties on

French nuclear test row: President concentrates on new-style Bastille Day as his embassies across the world are put under siege
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With the French authorities anticipating protests against President Jacques Chirac's decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific, police were out in force in Paris yesterday for the Bastille Day celebrations.

But on a day when Mr Chirac took a highly visible role and stamped his own style on the traditional proceedings, only four minor protests were registered: three against France's nuclear policy and one calling for action to help refugees in Bosnia.

Anti-nuclear protesters unrolled banners but were quickly detained by police and later released.

Greenpeace, which had not been involved in that protest, held a muted press conference near the Arc de Triomphe to publicise an appeal it had sent to President Chirac.

He broke with some Bastille Day practices of his predecessor, Francois Mitterrand, to stress France's role abroad and continue the preoccupation with young people that marked his election campaign.

The traditional flypast and military parade down the Champs Elysees, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, gave pride of place to units involved in foreign operations, in particular those engaged in Bosnia and concerned with humanitarian and disaster aid.

The parade of more than 4,000 troops and more than 400 military vehicles was led off by detachments of the Foreign Legion, the dominant component of the French force in Bosnia. Having changed the emphasis of the parade, Mr Chirac then departed from President Mitterrand's script to hold a press conference in the Elysee Palace which was transmitted live on French television. Mr Mitterrand used to give a television broadcast to the nation.

Always a major occasion on the Paris social calendar, the Bastille Day reception in the Elysee Palace garden had a distinctive Chirac touch. He had invited no fewer than 4,000 young people - five from every community in the country - who had been flown and bussed to Paris for the day.

Their jeans, T-shirts, and Scout uniforms were conspicuous among the couture dresses and dark suits of more traditionally clad guests.

But they were treated as equals, plied with champagne by the uniformed waiters and welcomed at the marquees lining the edge of the garden, which offered culinary specialities from every region of France.

The new-style guests were enthusiastic about the proceedings. Although selected mostly through youth and sports clubs, not for their political allegiance, they almost mobbed Mr Chirac when he appeared in the garden, and many later clutched invitations he had autographed.