French President Francois Hollande said on Sunday he had reached agreement with his NATO allies over his decision to withdraw French troops early from Afghanistan, saying they had understood his position.

"/> French President Francois Hollande said on Sunday he had reached agreement with his NATO allies over his decision to withdraw French troops early from Afghanistan, saying they had understood his position.

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FRANCOIS HOLLANDE

Hollande confirms early Afghan pull-out

French President Francois Hollande said on Sunday he had reached agreement with his NATO allies over his decision to withdraw French troops early from Afghanistan, saying they had understood his position.

Hollande confirms early Afghan pull-out
LCP Assemblee Nationale

“The combat troops will be pulled out from Afghanistan by the end of the year. In 2013 only trainers for the police forces and the Afghan soldiers will remain. That will be done as part of the ISAF operation, and based on these principles we managed to reach agreement,” Holland told reporters.

“We have ensured that France’s position has been fully respected and applied, and at the same time I ensured that our allies understood the reason for this operation,” the new French leader said.

“I demonstrated this by showing that there are actions which will remain part of the ISAF framework.”

Hollande, on his first foreign tour since being inaugurated as the new president on Tuesday, said he had been “open” with US President Barack Obama in their talks.

“And I told everyone I spoke with that this was not negotiable because it was a question of French sovereignty and everyone understood.”

Hollande also highlighted that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had told him during their talks Sunday that the French decision “did not bring into question the (NATO) operation.”

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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