Paris: French President Francois Hollande began reviewing a national day military parade Monday attended by soldiers from dozens of nations once involved in World War I, hours before a major televised interview.
As the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War this year, the traditional annual Bastille Day parade saw delegations from countries as varied as Senegal, Britain and Japan march in Paris.
"This July 14th is not a July 14th like others," Hollande said on the eve of the parade, pointing out that 100 years ago, "soldiers from around the world" came "to save us."
Transport and fighter planes flew before the start of a ground parade on the Champs Elysees avenue composed of nearly 4,000 forces, 285 vehicles and more than 240 horses, as thousands of onlookers cheered.
But at a time when the country`s economy is still faltering more than two years after Hollande took power, all eyes will be on the president`s 1115 GMT televised interview -- an annual tradition on France`s national day and his first media outing in over two months.
Record unemployment, a reform programme that has attracted the ire of lawmakers within his own Socialist party, a prime minister unpopular with influential unions, a series of high-profile strikes -- Hollande will be faced with tough questions in the interview that is also expected to touch on crises in Ukraine and Syria, as well as the current Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The interview comes a day after France announced it was officially ending its military offensive in Mali that rid the north of the country from the grip of Islamists, replacing it with an operation spanning the wider Sahel region to combat extremist violence.
On the domestic front, Hollande is expected to address criticism over a controversial reform plan aimed at boosting jobs and companies` competitiveness, that has stirred up major discontent among the left of the Socialist party.
He will also likely talk about a series of strikes by workers in the railway sector, entertainment industry and other areas, after the government took the hard line and refused to give in to their demands.