Military Suffers Shortage of Funds; Manpower, Technology, Logistics Said to Be Most Affected

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Byline: Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PARIS - France has taken stock of its military cababilities in case of war with Iraq and found them suffering from years of budgetary restrictions.

Particularly affected are technological warfare, logistics and the strength of available manpower, say officials of the conservative Cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who blame the situation on "political neglect" by their Socialist predecessors.

Officials stress, however, that all military preparations have been tentative and that any French involvement in armed action depends strictly on the final assessment of Iraq's cooperation with arms inspectors from the United Nations.

Government sources said that if the French join any U.S.-led military action, it would have to be in consultation with other members of the European Union, particularly Germany.

Germany and France form a 40-year-old partnership and consider themselves the spearhead of European unity. However, in recent months the strength of their leadership has been eroded by Germany's economic difficulties.

Diplomatic sources say the French government basically agrees with the United States that Iraq has failed to "cooperate fully" with the arms inspectors and that it issued a "false statement" on its weapons programs.

This is a major departure from France's initial criticism of U.S. statements on Iraq but still falls far short of the support shown by France during preparations for Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

At that time, France contributed a combined army division in addition to air force and naval units, a commitment that caused the resignation of Jean-Pierre Chevenement, the Socialist defense minister.

After their sweeping electoral victory in June, the conservatives put modernization of the French armed forces among the government's priorities. …