France to keep defence budget stable, cut 34,000 jobs

PARIS (REUTERS) - France will keep its defence budget stable over the next six years, after the army and lawmakers expressed concern at proposed cuts, and cut 34,000 defence ministry jobs, a strategic review showed on Monday.

The "White Paper", which gives a broad outline of defence priorities from 2014 to 2019, set an overall budget for the period of 179.2 billion euros (S$289 billion) and factors in job cuts that will mainly come via attrition.

President Francois Hollande's Socialist government is battling to reduce state spending by 60 billion euros over its five-year term, and was forced in March to order ministries to save an extra 5 billion in 2014 as its deficit target receded.

"This new White Paper puts the emphasis on three priorities of our strategy: protection, dissuasion and intervention," Mr Hollande told reporters.

The review comes at a sensitive time for France, a permanent UN Security Council member and nuclear power.

Its military has won plaudits for rapid intervention in Mali to help its former colony drive back Islamist rebels. At the same time, the operation highlighted its limitations in mid-air refuelling, troop transportation and intelligence gathering.