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UK, France ink defence pact on joint force, N-cooperation


LONDON (PTI): Britain and France Tuesday inked two landmark pacts to deepen defence cooperation by agreeing to create a joint force and share nuclear test facilities.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy inked the two treaties that they said would make both countries' citizens safer while cutting defence budgets following the financial crisis.

"Today we open a new chapter in a long history of co-operation on defence and security between Britain and France," Cameron was quoted as saying by the BBC online.

Sarkozy described the deal as "historic" and "unprecedented".
"France and Britain's clocks strike at the same hour at the same time," he told a press conference. "We intend to work hand in glove."

Cameron underlined the importance of cooperation, saying the alleged al-Qaeda parcel bombs discovered on US-bound flights last week "have reminded us that our societies and our security have never been more connected."

The landmark agreements between the two neighbours, who have been historic rivals for centuries, facilitates the creation of a joint rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 troops deployable from next year; plans to share nuclear testing equipment by 2015; and the use of aircraft carriers from about 2020.

Cameron said one treaty would commit the two nations' forces to work "more closely than ever before" while the other - to last 50 years - would increase co-operation on "nuclear safety".

The nuclear treaty will set up a centre in Britain to develop testing technology and another one in France to carry out the testing.

Warheads will be tested by technical means to ensure their safety and effectiveness, without having to test them by explosion, the report said.

The other treaty will facilitate the construction of a "combined joint expeditionary force", believed to involve a brigade of about 5,000 soldiers from each side which will operate under one military commander to be chosen at the time, the report said.

The two neighbours have also agreed to keep at least one aircraft carrier at sea between them at any one time. Each will be able to use the other's carrier in some form, certainly for training and possibly operations.

Cameron said the two countries were "natural partners" but added: "Britain and France are and will always remain sovereign nations able to deploy our armed forces independently."

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