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Britain backs French ambitions on European defence

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) July 2, 2008
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday backed French President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal that Europe should develop its own defence capabilities, saying it posed no threat to NATO.

Miliband welcomed Sarkozy's pledge in a major speech last month that France, which was a founding member of NATO but left the integrated command in 1966 when president Charles de Gaulle rejected US dominance of the military alliance, will fully re-integrate the alliance.

But he said developing European defence capacity was "not a threat to NATO".

"NATO is and will remain the cornerstone of European defence," he said in a speech addressing the fallout from the Irish rejection of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty on institutional reform of the bloc.

"Whether in Afghanistan or Kosovo, we need it to work as effectively as it can, which is why we want France to play a full role.

"But as the Balkans wars in the 1990s demonstrated, unless Europe can develop its own capabilities it will be consigned always to wait impotently until the US and NATO are ready and able to intervene."

Miliband later told Channel 4 News television that he was not calling for "a European army, there is no question of a European army."

"What we are in favour of is British, French, and other troops working together."

In his speech on June 17, Sarkozy made a clear statement that French forces "are and will remain national. They will not be integrated into any supranational force."

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