US, France reach draft deal on NATO posts
General Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from NATO's command in 1966 at the height of the Cold War.
The United States has agreed in principle that France should secure two top NATO posts in the event of its expected return to alliance military structures, a diplomat said on Friday.
General Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from NATO's command in 1966 at the height of the Cold War and expelled the alliance's headquarters from Paris and Fontainebleau in protest at what he saw as U.S. hegemony in Europe.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that he wants France to assume its full role in NATO, a step which could be agreed as early as an April summit in Strasbourg due to mark the 60th anniversary of the Western military pact.
"Yes, there is an informal agreement between the two governments," said the diplomat, who had direct knowledge of alliance discussions on the matter.
Under the agreement, French officials would head NATO's regional command headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal, and its Allied Command Transformation (ACT) headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia -- the command centre in charge of revamping Europe's Cold War protector.
The diplomat stressed the deal had not yet been finalised as France had not spelled out exactly how and when it would seek to rejoin the military structures.
Sarkozy has said he wants to see a parallel push for the European Union to strengthen its military might, which he sees as complementary to NATO's operations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Friday it was still assessing the possibility of France rejoining NATO's military command structure.
"Whether this decision needs to be put to a vote or not is still being evaluated in NATO," Babacan told reporters before departing for a security conference in Germany where top U.S. and European officials are seen discussing the issue.
"It is more of a political matter than a legal one. Most of the NATO allies see this as a positive thing but we are still evaluating," he added.
Reuters Last Mod: 06 Şubat 2009, 16:25