France pledges more Afghan troops

Nicolas Sarkozy announces support for Nato mission during two-day state visit to UK.

    Nicolas Sarkozy is undertaking the two-day state visit with his new wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy [AFP]
    France currently has 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the capital, Kabul, and its northern suburbs.
    The president also used the speech to emphasise what he described as a new closeness in Anglo-French relations.
    He said: "I have come to propose to the British people that together we write a new page in our common history, that of a new Franco-British brotherhood."
    Sarkozy received a standing ovation from the parliament.
    Ceremonial parade
    The address was part of a two-day state visit to the UK that Sarkozy is undertaking with his new wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
    He will attend meetings with Queen Elizabeth II and Gordon Brown, the British prime minister.
    Prince Charles, the Queen's eldest son, greeted Sarkozy and his wife when they landed at London's Heathrow airport.
    Sarkozy then joined the Queen in a ceremonial parade to Windsor castle where he will be residing.

    Britain is expected to announce a deal to buy Airbus A330 refuelling tankers during the visit, although it is not part of the official programme.

    It is the first state visit by a French president since Jacques Chirac travelled to the UK in 1996.


    Mending fences

    The French president has sought to improve relations with the US and Britain, which were strained by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Chirac resisted.

    Some political analysts say he is also reaching out to Britain because he does not get on well with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

    Sarkozy said France and the UK shoud pool
    their arms industries to save money [AFP


    In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Wednesday Sarkozy said: "Let us try and lay the groundwork for concrete projects.

    "Think of the defence issue: we are the two countries that spend most on defence. Why don't we pool our arms industries so that we spend less money and be more effective?

    "On immigration, we shouldn't simply be guarding British borders. That is not our aim in life. Couldn't we better define an immigration policy?

    "On the economy, couldn't we try and get the Americans to agree to do something about their dollar?"

    Finance talks

    Officials said Brown and Sarkozy will urge banks to disclose fully write-offs caused by the global credit crisis.

    Banks have written down more than $125bn of assets because of the credit squeeze sparked by low-quality mortgages in the US.

    Meanwhile, Sarkozy is eager for French companies to play a role in Britain's plan to build new nuclear power stations to help keep the lights on when North Sea oil and gas runs out. 

    A French reactor design was one of four given initial approval last week by Britain's nuclear regulators.

    On defence, Sarkozy has signalled France might be ready to return to Nato's military structures after a 41-year absence but has made strengthening EU defence capabilities a pre-condition.

    Brown's office said the two leaders will also call for reform of the United Nation Security Council to make it more representative, including permanent representation for Africa.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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