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France and UK ‘plan joint military force’

LONDON, Feb 10 (AFP) – Britain and France are to create joint rapid deployment military units to be used in jungle, desert and mountain operations, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

The Anglo-French plan is part of a strategy by Paris and London to beef up Europe’s defence and for the European Union to take on more responsibility in promoting world stability, the British business daily said.

The initiative, which will be presented this week to the European Union’s political and security ambassadors, sets out a timetable describing how and where the new units will conduct missions, the FT reported.

The paper said that diplomats had insisted the Anglo-French plan would not compete with NATO.

The initiative will be open to other EU states, but countries wishing to join will have to show a high degree of “interoperability”, the FT said, without making clear what its source was.

Britain and France want the plan accepted by all member states by June 30 and for troops to be available by 2007.

The planned battlegroups would consist of 1,500 troops, be capable of being deployed within 15 days and operate under a United Nations mandate.London and Paris want the units to work closely, but not exclusively, with the UN.

The EU originally wanted to create a rapid-reaction force of 60,000, but this had been scaled back because military capabilities would not stretch to the soldiers and equipment needed, the FT said.

In December the EU adopted plans for an independent military planning cell proposed by Britain, France and Germany which would seek to enhance the bloc’s abilities to respond to UN requests to intervene in global hotspots.

The unit will be based with the EU’s existing military staff in Brussels, where NATO also has its headquarters.


                                                              Subject: France news