France wants to strip down NATO command

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One year after rejoining NATO military command, France wants to see the alliance's headquarters cut down in size, officials in Defence Minister Herve Morin's office told AFP on Tuesday.

French officers feel the Atlantic alliance's 12,500-strong command staff is too large and its structures too unwieldy for 21st century combat.

Paris officials have contacted NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates urging that plans be drawn up to abolish redundant and overlapping command structures, they said.

"This rationalisation could allow us to cut down manpower and command structures by a third and at the same time improve our effectiveness," a French official said, arguing that NATO needed more "deployable assets".

France hopes that proposals as to how this can be done should be agreed before the next full meeting of NATO defence ministers, which is to be held in Brussels on June 10 and 11.

While remaining a Western ally, France pulled out of NATO's integrated command structure in 1966.

It nevertheless contributed to several NATO missions notably in the Balkans and the current war in Afghanistan, and President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to rejoin the command last year.

© 2010 AFP

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