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France to Cut Nuclear Arsenal to Less Than 300 Warheads


French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday that France would cut its nuclear arsenal to about half of its Cold War number - even as he warned against possible defense threats posed by Iran, among others. For VOA, Lisa Bryant reports from Paris.

Speaking from the northern port city of Cherbourg, President Sarkozy announced plans to cut the country's total nuclear arsenal to less than 300 warheads - or a third of France's airborne strike force. According to Mr. Sarkozy, the cuts would leave France with an arsenal about half its Cold War size.

But Mr. Sarkozy also called for a strong French defense, and warned of threats to Europe's security - and of the specific threat posed by Iran. He spoke at the inauguration of a nuclear submarine named "The Terrible."

In a widely broadcasted speech, the French president suggested new powers, including Iran, were developing ballistic materials. He said Iran's nuclear program has drawn widespread concern. He said France supported nuclear dissuasion as a method of defense, although only in extreme circumstance.

Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes, but France and a number of other countries fear Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Sarkozy also called on the United States and China to ratify a nuclear test ban treaty the two countries signed more than 40 years ago. And he urged European countries to start a dialogue on the role of deterrence and how it can contribute to the region's security.

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