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    France Boosts Military Spending Despite Mistral Deadlock

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    France is set to increase its defense budget by $4.2 billion over four years from 2016, despite not yet reaching agreement over a cancelled $1.29 billion contract to supply warships to Russia.

    President Francois Hollande said the decision was made to ensure the army can tackle problems at home and maintain missions abroad, notably in Africa and the Middle East.

    "France is facing big threats internally and externally," Hollande told reporters on Wednesday after a defense cabinet meeting.

    "Security, protection and independence are principles that are not negotiable."

    Paris had previously said it would keep its annual defense budget at the same level — $34.5 billion (31.4 billion euros) — in its strategic review running from 2014 to 2019. This spending freeze meant the projected loss of 34,000 jobs in the armed forces, but Wednesday's decision will allow some of those positions to be saved.

    Disputed Mistral Deal With Russia

    Russia and France are said to be close to reaching an agreement for Paris to cancel a frozen contract on the sale of Mistral helicopter carriers and reimburse Moscow, according to a Russian source close to the talks, Reuters reported last week.

    France suspended the delivery of the warships last year after the European Union decided to impose sanctions on Russia over the separatist conflict in neighbouring Ukraine.

    French President Francois Hollande, who held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on April 24, suggested that Paris could cancel the contract and reimburse Moscow. Putin had said the previous week that Moscow would not impose penalties on France over the $1.29 billion deal if all costs incurred by Russia were reimbursed.

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    France, warships, defense spending, spending, deal, terror alert, defense budget, army, terrorism, strategy, military, defense, talks, RUSSIA * FRANCE * MISTRAL * MILITARY * NAVY, agreement, mistral, Ukrainian crisis, Mistral delivery, French Defense Ministry, Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande, Europe, Moscow, Paris, Ukraine, Russia
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