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Britain, France to bolster defense pact

US hearing for 'Merchant of Death' Bout postponed
New York (AFP) Jan 7, 2011 - Alleged "Merchant of Death" arms dealer Viktor Bout will appear in court on January 21 and not this week as planned after his lawyer obtained a postponement, a US court said Friday. Bout, who turns 44 on January 13, was captured in a US sting in March 2008 and extradited from Thailand in November after a long legal battle. He is currently being held in a high-security prison in New York. His lawyer had demanded a delay of 30 days but the judge only granted him until January 21, according to a court clerk. Bout -- whose story inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage film "Lord of War" -- has been charged with arms trafficking and terrorism and is accused of flying weapons to insurgents in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

If convicted, he faces between 25 years and life in prison. The former Soviet military translator has insisted he is innocent and accused the United States of trying to make him a scapegoat for various international problems. On Sunday Bout said in a rare interview with RIA Novosti that he had rejected a US plea bargain offer that would have exposed his alleged contact list. Military analysts in Moscow have said his arrest was a particularly sensitive blow for Russia because it threatened to expose potential links between government officials and the illicit arms trade. Russia initially fought the extradition to the United States. But the Kremlin's top foreign policy adviser said in November that Bout "should answer the questions that US justice has for him."
by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) Jan 7, 2011
The defense ministers of France and Britain are to meet in Paris next week to look into closer defense cooperation between the two countries.

The French Defense Ministry said the meeting was designed to "put into effect" treaty agreements signed recently between the two countries in the field of military cooperation.

Among the treaties is the creation of an Anglo-French rapid reaction force of around 6,500 troops from both countries, intended for missions ranging from humanitarian relief work to full war-fighting operations.

The force is due to include units from the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines and Special Forces including the SAS, as well as their French counterparts.

The agreement was the centerpiece pact signed by British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a meeting two months ago. The security cooperation will include potential air and naval assets and an operational alliance based on sharing aircraft capabilities.

British Defense Minister Liam Fox and his French counterpart will discuss details of the pact at their meeting next Thursday, the French Defense Ministry said. Officials said the defense deal would also coordinate work on nuclear weapons and raising the prospect of ultimately developing a joint deterrent.

The meeting also comes as France moved in recent weeks to order 200 air-to-air Meteor missiles to equip its Rafale fighters serving in the air force and navy. Designed and manufactured by multinational missile producer MBDA, the first Meteor missile will be delivered to the French air force in 2018.

It will be designed with what manufacturers called "a ramjet that can intercept targets at ranges of several tens of kilometers."

With more than 9,750 employees in Europe and the United States, the stake of MBDA group is shared by Britain's BAE System, European EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica.

Both countries have insisted that the deal to pool defense resources between Britain and France would not lead to a loss of sovereignty.

Military experts estimate that France and Britain will each have only one functioning carrier by the end of the decade. So London and Paris will coordinate the maintenance schedules for their ships, ensuring that one carrier is always in service and potentially available for joint operations. French combat aircraft may also be allowed to fly from Britain's carrier.

The Defense News Web site reported that among the areas of cooperation identified in the treaty are work on a "new medium-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drone, joint assessment of requirements for an unmanned combat air vehicle, and a 10-year strategic plan for the missile sector, based on greater interdependence and industrial consolidation."

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Russian Air Force To Receive Up To 100 Sukhoi Fighter Jets By 2015
Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Jan 07, 2011
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