Monday, 21 August, 2017

Lecointre to be France's top military official

Erik Tate | 20 July, 2017, 00:57

The French armed forces chief, Pierre De Villiers, 61, resigned on Wednesday after a heated dispute with president Emmanuel Macron over defence budget cuts, bringing to a head an early test of the newly elected president's mettle.

"Armies basically obey. So in substance the president was within his rights to restate his authority, but the way [Macron] did it will leave marks." former French chief of armed forces Henri Bent├ęgeat told Le Monde.

De Villiers said he had sought to maintain a French defence force able to do an increasingly hard job within the financial constraints imposed on it.

Balkans war veteran General Francois Lecointre has been nominated as Gen de Villiers' successor.

The deep cuts to the defense budget have angered the military because Macron has made a point of showing support for the military since coming to power in May.

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De Villiers, whose brother Philippe heads an ultraconservative political group called Movement for France (MPF), became Fillon's military adviser in 2008 while the conservative politician was prime minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency, and became head of the army two years later.

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Authorities are focusing their search in a wooded area near a mobile home park in Gardendale , about 15 miles north of Birmingham. The shootings happened just weeks before the man is scheduled to go on trial on child sexual abuse charges in Pennsylvania .

De Villiers, who has been in the position since 2014, added that he could no longer perform the functions of the job.

The leader of the hard-left France Unbowed, Jean-Luc Melenchon, called it an "enormous mistake" on Macron's part.

"I may be stupid, but I know when I am being had", he said, according to sources unnamed by Reuters.

Macron's own behavior has elicited criticism, notably by those who fear he is growing power-hungry since overwhelmingly winning election in May and seeing his new centrist party dominate last month's parliamentary elections.

The crisis was exacerbated by its timing as it emerged in the week of the July 14 Bastille Day military parade, where US President Donald Trump was the guest of honor.

In his first foreign visit after taking office, he visited French troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the West African country of Mali. He also intends to rein in the country's fiscal deficit to below 3 percent of gross domestic product, in line with European Union rules.

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