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Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 09:02 UK

France's military faces overhaul

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Mr Sarkozy wants a leaner fighting force

France is to cut 54,000 military and civilian defence jobs as part of a root-and-branch reform of the sector, under government plans.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing to create a smaller and more mobile army he believes will be better equipped to respond to new threats.

His strategy is also expected to place an emphasis on a stronger European Union defence policy.

Officials say there is no plan to scrap France's nuclear deterrent.

Mr Sarkozy will present the proposals to military officials on Tuesday, in a paper called the White Book on Defence and Homeland Security.

It is the first major review of France's military organisation since 1994.

'Unpredictable' world

The review is expected to propose boosting spending on technology and intelligence, while cutting personnel.

Bruno Tertrais, a member of the expert panel who drew up the changes, hailed the document as "revolutionary".

"For the first time in centuries, France does not base its defence policy on the hypothesis of a major military conflict in Europe," he told the French AFP news agency.

"There is a very strong emphasis on intelligence, recognising that the world may not be more dangerous than it was in 1994 when we did the previous white paper, but it seems more unpredictable."

Under the plans, the number of combat-ready troops would be reduced from 50,000 to 30,000.

As well as placing more emphasis on EU co-operation, Mr Sarkozy is also expected to propose moving closer to Nato command.

France withdrew from Nato's military structure in 1966 in protest at the dominance of US commanders.

But Mr Sarkozy indicated earlier this year that France may return to the organisation's military command.

The proposed new military strategy will be discussed in parliament later this month.


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