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FRANCE

French defence spending to soar

President Emmanuel Macron (L) with General Pierre de Villiers before his resignation
President Emmanuel Macron (L) with General Pierre de Villiers before his resignation Reuters

French MPs have voted to increase defence spending in 2018 by nearly two billion euros. The government promises to keep up the same level of increase every year until 2022, with the aim of reaching the Nato target for member-states to spend 2.0 percent of GDP on the military.

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The 1.8-billion-euro rise will push the defence budget up to 32.4 billion euros next year in what Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly called an "unprecedented effort".

A large share of the money will go to equipment, including military transporters and fighter jets to be used in operations in west Africa and the Middle East, where French troops are fighting jihadist groups.

The increase comes after this year's cut of 850 million euros, which triggered a row between French President Emmanuel Macron and armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers.

De Villiers, who had told parliament that the army was being "screwed", resigned after beign given a public dressing down on Bastille Day by Macron.

The general on Wednesday published a book, Servir (To Serve), in which he went over the experience.

"You don't win a war without a war effort," he comments, going on to point out that French troops are active in the Sahel, Syria and Iraq and at home, following the 2015 terror attacks.Macron plans to continue ploughing more money into the military, to try reach a Nato target of spending the equivalent of two percent of GDP by 2025.

European members of the military alliance have come under pressure from US President Donald Trump to shoulder more defence costs to relieve the burden on his country, which currently contributes about 70 percent of the organisation's budget.

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