British defence minister attacks EU project

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Britain's defence minister Wednesday criticised European members of NATO which have pressed for a common EU defence project while "shirking" their role in the transatlantic alliance.

"Many of those calling for deeper EU defence integration are already failing to fulfil their commitments to NATO," Liam Fox told his Conservative party's annual conference in Manchester, northwest England.

"My message to them is clear -- you cannot expect to have the insurance policy but ask others to pay the premiums," he added, without naming any countries.

Fox dismissed the argument for closer military union in the EU, particularly at a time when European nations are slashing defence budgets.

"Europe already has a guarantor of its defence -- it's called NATO. It is nonsense to duplicate and divert from NATO at a time when resources are scarce across Europe. And the last thing we need is more EU bureaucracy," he said.

European members of NATO were split by the military action in Libya, which was led by Britain and France but opposed by Germany and Poland.

The British defence secretary meanwhile confirmed that the NATO mission in Libya "will continue until we are satisfied that the people of Libya are no longer threatened by remnants of the former regime" of Moamer Kadhafi.

© 2011 AFP

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