Clinton warns British defence cuts could hit NATO

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that plans to slash Britain's military spending could damage the NATO military alliance, days before the cuts are unveiled.

Clinton, in comments to the BBC Thursday, voiced fears about planned cuts in Europe and particularly Britain, a major contributor to the NATO-led force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

She urged NATO allies to maintain the most successful defence alliance "in the history of the world" and said its 28 member states must keep paying into the organisation to ensure it had a future.

Asked whether the question of defence cuts in Europe -- and specifically Britain -- worried her, Clinton told the British broadcaster: "It does.

"The reason it does is because I think we do have to have an alliance where there is a commitment to the common defence.

"NATO has been the most successful alliance for defensive purposes in the history of the world I guess, but it has to be maintained."

"Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions," added Clinton, talking to BBC World News in Brussels where she was attending a meeting at NATO headquarters.

Her comments echoed those of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Brussels on Thursday.

"But as nations deal with their economic problems, we must guard against the hollowing out of alliance military capability by spending reductions that cut too far into muscle," he said.

The warnings came ahead of a defence review in Britain next week. The finance ministry is seeking a reduction of up to 10 percent in the Ministry of Defence's budget between 2011 and 2015.

Britain's Defence Secretary Liam Fox sought to reassure international allies Friday ahead of the cuts, writing in the Times newspaper that the country would "continue to be a big contributor to NATO."

© 2010 AFP

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