France wants closer defence ties with Britain

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France wants closer defence ties with Britain and wants European powers to step up cooperation to secure the high seas, space and cyberspace, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday.

"France is ready to undertake concrete plans to allow us to accomplish the toughest combat missions," Sarkozy told an audience of French diplomats.

"I heard the declarations of our British allies on bilateral cooperation with France. We are ready to discuss this without taboo," he said, without elaborating on which projects he has in mind.

Britain and France have the two most powerful militaries in the European Union, but both are faced with tight budgets and huge public deficits which could limit their ability to fund large new projects.

Reports have suggested London may try to save money by sharing one of two new aircraft carriers it has on order with France, or timing maintenance so that either France or Britain has a carrier at sea at all times.

"Faced with threats to our vital interests we have a nuclear deterrent, which is the guarantee of our independence. But faced with new threats, the Europeans have fallen behind," Sarkozy explained.

"They must also participate in the security of the seas -- essential for our trade -- the security of space and now of cyberspace."

© 2010 AFP

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