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France trumpets EU defences, key plank for NATO future

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Nov 10, 2008
French Defence Minister Herve Morin trumpeted Monday new progress made in boosting the European Union's military capacities, a key condition for France to fully reintegrate into NATO.

"I can say, that as of November 10... we have already made substantial and considerable progress, probably as much as we have seen in 10 years," he said, after hosting EU defence talks in Brussels.

He said that the ministers had signed a raft of declarations and letters of intent, including deals on leasing transport aircraft, demining, military satellite observation and training schemes.

"This is a decisive step in the relaunch of European security and defence policy," Morin, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of the year, told reporters.

"We put all these proposals, without exception, on the table about a year ago," Morin said. "Amid general scepticism, I was told that we would have little progress made in terms of European defence" capacities.

The minister did not say whether the progress would be enough for France to return to the NATO military command fold, noting that EU and NATO leaders still had to discuss European defence issues at summits in December and April.

France is expected to announce its intent to return fully into NATO at the military alliance's summit in Strasbourg and Kehl in April, but it has made the move conditional on Europe's defence capacities being strengthened.

France was a founder member of NATO, but then president Charles de Gaulle pulled out of the alliance's integrated military command in 1966.

The split developed over many years, as successive French governments became increasingly dissatisfied with what they perceived as Anglo-American domination of the command structure and insufficient French influence.

France now wants to ensure that Europe can stand alone if it must.

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Rice, Lavrov hold direct talks on US-Russia relations
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (AFP) Nov 8, 2008
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