France announces defence summit with Britain

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Britain and France will hold a summit on November 2 to discuss joint defence deals, Paris said on Friday, following reports they are negotiating for France to service British nuclear warheads.

"On November 2 a Franco-British summit will take place which will principally cover our cooperation in defence and weapons," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in a speech at a military academy.

"The partnership we are going to conclude will allow our two countries to pool certain capacities and develop complementary ways of using our defence tools, naturally with respect for each side's sovereignty and priorities."

The Financial Times newspaper said Friday that Britain and France were close to striking a deal for a French laboratory to help service Britain's closely-guarded nuclear warheads, to help ease pressure on their budgets.

"We have to turn first to those of our partners that share our desire to maintain a credible defence tool and sufficient technological capacities in the sphere of armaments," Fillon said.

"If we look around us in Europe, the list is quickly made. Principally, there is Britain."

The two countries last month rejected reports that they plan to merge their aircraft carrier fleets, but said they were talking about sharing the cost of military aircraft programmes.

Britain has 160 nuclear warheads operational out of a total of no more than 225. France's Atomic Energy Commission maintains its 300 warheads, and under the discussions would service the British ones too, the FT said.

© 2010 AFP

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