France has done its duty in Afghanistan, says Hollande
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French President François Hollande said France had done "more than its duty" in Afghanistan, as officials said a calendar to pull out troops would be drawn up in the coming days.
Speaking at the end of a two-day Nato summit in the US city of Chicago, the new French president reiterated that "combat troops will be withdrawn at the end of 2012" adding that some "military" elements would stay on Afghan soil for training Afghan police and soldiers and to help "repatriate our materiel."
Hollande also denied that France would have to make some kind of payback for pulling out its troops by the end of 2012, a year earlier than planned.
"There is no compensation to pay or even to be thought of. We have done more than our duty and I remind everyone of French losses: 83 men lost their lives, there have been numerous wounded," he told journalists.
An aide to the president said the calendar for the withdrawal of the French troops from Afghanistan would be drawn up "in the next 10 days."
Hollande also said that as a Nato member France was being asked to contribute to the Afghan security forces budget of 4.1 billion dollars a year from 2015.
"We have not replied. In principle we can look at it, but we haven't fixed a sum, and we are not bound by what Germany and other countries may do," he said.
Away from the negotiating table, Hollande appeared to be warmly welcomed by world leaders in the first trip in his new role as French president.
Despite never having held a government post, he seemed assured swapping quips with US President Barack Obama in the Oval office and joking with his press corps.
In more positive signs, first Obama and then other G8 leaders echoed Hollande’s campaign trail call for more growth oriented policies alongside the austerity measures imposed on the eurozone by Germany and the European Central Bank.
Then Nato leaders did not object when Hollande insisted on his pledge to remove French troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year was ‘not negotiable’.
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