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NEWS IN BRIEF

EUROPE

19 Jan 06. Jacques Chirac, France’s president, on Thursday threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that backed terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction. In a high-profile speech to military officers updating France’s strategic doctrine, Mr Chirac said the end of the Cold war had removed neither the threats to peace nor the justification for a nuclear deterrent. Citing the dangers of regional instability, rising extremism, and the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, Mr Chirac said France’s nuclear deterrence remained the “fundamental guarantee of our security.” Although Mr Chirac conceded that the country’s nuclear arsenal could not deter fanatical terrorists, he said it could help prevent states from sponsoring those terrorists. “The leaders of states who use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part. This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind,” he said. Opposition politicians immediately denounced Mr Chirac’s comments on Thursday as “irresponsible.” France, which first acquired an autonomous nuclear deterrent in 1964, spends almost €3bn a year, or just under. (Source: FT.com)

06 Jan 06. A Spanish army commander provoked a storm on Jan. 6 by warning the army would have to defend Spanish unity if the region of Catalonia won the far-reaching self-government it is seeking. Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Felix Sanz Roldan responded by asking Defense Minister Jose Bono to dismiss Lieutenant-General Jose Mena Aguado from his post as commander of land forces over the remarks, the Defense Ministry said. Bono ordered Mena Aguado — who was due to retire in March — to report to the Defense Ministry for a meeting on Saturday morning, it added in a statement. Mena Aguado’s remarks were taken as a warning of military intervention if a proposed Catalan autonomy plan, currently before the national parliament, is approved unamended. (Source: Defense News)

13 Jan 06. France has launched a tender for a private-sector contract for initial pilot training at its Dax military helicopter school, a Ministry of Defense official said. The tender terms, published Jan. 11 in the French and European “Journal Officiel,” call for the supply of training flying hours. The winner of the Contrat Partenaire d’Etat (CPE) is expected to invest 400 million euros ($484.5 million) in the deal. Europe’s EADS and French systems house Thales as well as foreign companies are expected to bid for the contract, which will be a first for France in the supply of military aircraft training. The winning contractor will own the helicopters and offer training to other operators. Under the new system, trainee pilots will not fly French Army operational helicopters, but instead civil aircraft, which are cheaper and simpler to maintain. (Source: Defense News)

20 Jan 06. During a trip to Afghanistan in August, General James Jones, the US officer who is supreme commander of Nato, was upbeat about the European commitment to the alliance’s mission based in Kabul.
After years in which European allies failed to match their rhetorical support for Afghan security operations with the resources needed to complete the Nato mission – particularly helicopters and troops – a corner appeared to have been turned. Even Lithuania had agreed to send 120 soldiers to western Ghor province. “Immediately, allies in other countries stepped up. It opened the door,” Gen Jones said at the time.” But six months later, just as Nato prepares to begin its most difficult task yet in Afghanistan – taking over security operations from US forces in the still-unsettled south – that new-found faith in Europe is being tested. For nearly a year, Nato planners have relied on British, Dutch and Canadian forces t

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