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Macron accepts resignation of French military chief

Etienne Laurent / POOL / AFP | File photo taken on July 14, 2017 shows French General Pierre de Villiers arriving aboard a command car during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris.

France's head of the armed forces resigned Wednesday, according to a statement from his office. The shock announcement came days after Gen. Pierre de Villiers had a public dispute with President Emmanuel Macron over proposed defence budget cuts.

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De Villiers said he had sought to maintain a French defence force able to do an increasingly difficult job within the financial constraints imposed on it.

"In the current circumstances, I see myself as no longer able to guarantee the robust defence force I believe is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people, today and tomorrow, and to sustain the aims of our country," he said.

He said that as a result he had tendered his resignation to Macron and that it had been accepted.

‘I am the boss’

The unprecedented public row between the French president and military chief erupted last week after Macron announced a €850 million cut to the defence budget in an effort to meet the EU’s requirement that member states maintain their deficits at 3 percent of GDP.

De Villiers, 61, reportedly complained about the cuts to a parliamentary committee and followed it up with a Facebook post that criticised the measure without naming Macron.
His public remarks -- unusual in France which has a tradition of military chiefs refraining from comments about civilian governments – sparked a rebuke from Macron.

"I am the boss," Macron told the French weekly, Journal du dimanche, over the weekend, adding that if there was a difference of opinion, "it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position".

De Villiers said Wednesday that throughout his career, he had believed it was his duty to tell politicians "of my reservations".

The row has provoked a debate about whether 39-year-old Macron had humiliated his military chief or whether he had no choice but to exert his authority just two months into his presidency.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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