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Germany

Kujat not in Favour of Blair's Idea

General Harald Kujat was only elected chairman of NATO's Military Committee on Tuesday and already he's making waves.

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General Harald Kujat

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Thursday, newly-appointed chairman of NATO's Military Committee, General Harald Kujat, brushed aside the suggestion to create a new body to deepen NATO cooperation with Russia. The idea was proposed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Germany's top uniformed officer takes up his post at NATO headquarters in Brussels next June. He stated that provisions were already in place for the Western Alliance to cooperate with Russia in joint projects. "For the time being we should fill these out before we consider creating new structures," Kujat said.

Kujat went on to say his ambitious reform plans for Germany's military were doing well but that he needed more funds to secure success - a topic that many feel he harps upon.

According to Kujat, Germany has has severely reduced its troop numbers which now stand at 340,000 in the decade since unification. West Germany's troops numbers were at 500,000, not including the 180,000 East German troops that had to be absorbed.

He expects to cut the number troops down further to 285,000. This will be done with an enlarged rapid reaction element, to create a more responsive force able to take part in peace keeping and crisis missions.

However, Kujat rejected criticism that his overhaul launched last year was moving too slowly. "It is a huge task but the changes are not so recognised on the outside," he said. "For some, the changes are too fast."

He also rejected speculation that he would be leaving his three-year post early for his NATO position. Kujat did mention that two-years in the military service was the norm and he wasn't going to leave because the government didn't want to increase defence spending.

He made one point very clearly by reiterating it: the plans needed more money to succeed. The government's decision after the September 11 attacks to increase next year's defence spending by 1.5 billion marks a year vindicates his demand.

However, this was not enough and more money is needed he said. "I am responsible for making demands and not for their fulfilment. It is up to the government to set priorities."

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