Thursday, September 18, 2008

France Criticizes Lack Of European Arms Spending


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A shortage of international troops in Afghanistan reflects insufficient defense spending across most of Europe, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said Wednesday during a visit to Australia.

Morin echoed Australia's criticisms that Europe must contribute more troops to the war against Islamic extremists in Afghanistan.

There "is not the thickness of a cigarette paper between the points of view of Australia and France on Afghanistan," Morin said through an interpreter after meeting with Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon in Canberra.

Fitzgibbon frequently criticizes unnamed European countries for not carrying a fair share of the growing military effort in the troubled Central Asian country.
Morin said the problem was that most European countries now rely on NATO for their defense.

"Europe, with the exception of Britain and France, has since quite a long time ago decided to disarm and to not allocate sufficient funding for defense and security," Morin told reporters at a joint press conference with Fitzgibbon.

"The weakness of Europe is typified by what you see in Afghanistan — we have very much a common point of view on this issue," Morin added.

Fitzgibbon said his criticisms of the European military contribution have not been directed at France. He offered Morin Australia's sympathies for the 10 French soldiers killed in an ambush in Afghanistan last month.

Morin used his first trip to Australia to invite Fitzgibbon to visit Afghanistan with the French and German defense ministers in December.

Fitzgibbon said he would accept the invitation if his schedule permitted.

Australia's 1,000 troops in the southern province of Uruzgan is the largest contribution to Afghanistan of any country outside NATO.

While Fitzgibbon acknowledges that at least an additional 10,000 are needed to quell a Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency, Australia has refused to send more troops.

France has 2,600 troops on Afghan soil and hundreds more are scheduled to deploy to the country over the coming months.

Despite recent polls suggesting the majority of French people favor a pullout, Morin said Wednesday that his people did not want to quit the international battle against terrorism which is being waged in Afghanistan.

"The idea of abandoning that mission has no support in France," Morin said.

"We don't have the right to lose in Afghanistan," he added.

Source: AP.Org - Google.Com

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