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Europe

Briton Gets Top Job at EU Arms Agency

A British official has been appointed head of the European armaments agency, ending a long squabble with France over the appointment.

The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced the appointment of Nick Witney as head of the unit - a key element of the EU's common foreign and security policy. The choice was up to Solana after Paris and London could not find a compromise solution. But France's annoyance at the news is likely to be mitigated by the appointment of a French officer to take over as head of the EU's military staff from February. There is also talk of Witney stepping down after three years in favour of his French counterpart. The armaments chief's nationality is especially important in this case, because different EU countries are said to have different ideas about what the agency should achieve. For the Italians and Germans, the agency should be a small-scale co-ordination unit. But the French want the agency to define a European arms procurement strategy. The UK's position is somewhere in the middle. It believes that the agency should help national defense ministries develop and harmonize armaments across the EU but that the French idea goes too far. (EUobserver.com)

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