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Cameron rules out EU military forces

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BRUSSELS (AFP): British Prime Minister David Cameron has quashed the idea the European Union should have its own armed forces, laying down a marker at an EU summit dedicated to boosting defence cooperation.

"It makes sense for nation states to cooperate over matters of defence to keep us all safer... but it is not right for the EU to have capabilities, armies, air forces and the rest of it," Cameron said on Thursday as he arrived for the two-day meeting.

"We have to get that demarcation correct, between cooperation which is right, but EU capabilities which is wrong," he said as other EU leaders highlighted the need to increase defence cooperation to make stretched budgets go further." he said.

"I am looking forward to the discussion."

Britain has consistently argued that its military assets must remain strictly under national control and favours cooperation through NATO to ensure European security.

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who attends the summit's defence session on Thursday, told AFP earlier this week he wanted to see EU leaders commit to do more, citing the pressing need for drones and air-to-air refuelling aircraft.

Arriving for the meeting, Rasmussen stressed that "if European nations invest more in military capabilities, they will also make stronger contributions to NATO".

"We need more cooperation and coordination. We must avoid duplication and waste of resources," he said.

"There is no such thing as a European army, only national capabilities."

Defence cooperation tops the agenda at the EU summit, with France and Germany backing the idea strongly and smaller member states largely in favour as a way of getting more for their money.

Britain and France have frequently taken the lead in military action -- as in Libya in 2011 -- with their EU allies contributing logistical or other aid but not troops on the ground.

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