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Bastille Day French army boss, Macron appear side-by-side amid tensions

Macron called General De Villiers to order on Thursday, saying: "I am your chief. I know how to honour the...

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French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and General Pierre de Villiers take part in the annual Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2017 play

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and General Pierre de Villiers take part in the annual Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2017

(POOL/AFP)
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French military chief Pierre de Villiers attended Friday's Bastille Day parade in Paris on Friday alongside commander-in-chief Emmanuel Macron after receiving a dressing down from the president for objecting to defence budget cuts.

Macron called General De Villiers to order on Thursday, saying: "I am your chief. I know how to honour the commitments I make to our citizens."

Speaking to military brass at a traditional gathering on the eve of Bastille Day, he called on them all to remember their "sense of duty and reserve."

The rebuke came after participants at a closed-door hearing of parliament's defence committee said De Villiers banged his fist on the table and told them the military did not want to be "screwed" by the economy ministry.

Under pressure to find savings, the new French government asked the military to stick within its overall budget of 32.7 billion euros ($37.3 billion).

Defence cost overruns are expected to total around 850 million euros this year.

The government has pledged to keep its overall deficit under 3.0 percent of GDP -- which is required under EU budget rules -- and has identified a total of 4.5 billion euros in savings.

Speaking on French radio RTL early Friday, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Macron had "reminded certain people of the collective discipline that is needed."

She said "everyone should contribute to the joint effort" to tighten belts so that France's spending can comply with EU rules for the first time in a decade -- one of Macron's key commitments.

In a commentary that appeared in the conservative daily Le Figaro on Friday De Villiers was more measured, writing: "Our armies have been under great pressure for several years... with 30,000 troops in operational roles, day and night."

He complained that operations have had to be postponed or cancelled for lack of funds.

In addition to its commitments overseas, notably in the west African former French colony Mali, the army has deployed 7,000 soldiers to domestic operations since the start of a string of jihadist attacks in early 2015.

The military budget is to increase to 34.2 billion euros in 2018.

Macron pledged to increase it to 2.0 percent of gross domestic product by 2025, which would bring it to 50 billion euros.

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