France Military Eyes 2014 Cuts, Far-right Seeks To Benefit

Les Bleus will face the Socceroos in a friendly at the Parc des Princes in Paris on 11 October, before hostingthe Finnsat the Stade de France four days later in their final Group I qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Centre-back Varane, 20, makes the squad despite only making his comeback from five months on the sidelines with a knee injury in Real’s 4-0 win over FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. “Varane was with us for two games in March,” said Deschamps. “He had an injury that prevented him from taking part in our tour of South America in June, but he has now been training fully for three weeks and returned to competition yesterday. “He has not played much, but his past performances with us made me think that the logical thing was for him to come back into the squad. I consider Raphael to be an important member of the France team.” Remy scores goals, is capable of playing in several positions, and offers us pace and penetration. He gives us different options going forward. Didier Deschamps on Loic Remy Varane is joined in the squad by Mamadou Sakho , who earns a recall after leaving Paris Saint-Germain for Liverpool in search of playing time, as Adil Rami of Valencia misses out. Further forward, Remy is rewarded for his good recent form in the Premier League with Newcastle by coming back into the national squad in place of the injured Andre-Pierre Gignac of Marseille. “Remy scores goals, is capable of playing in several positions, and offers us pace and penetration,” said Deschamps. “He gives us different options going forward.” Remy is one of four Newcastle players named, with midfielder Yohan Cabaye also back after ending a dispute with the English club.

France recall Remy, Sakho and Varane

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann By John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry PARIS | Thu Oct 3, 2013 8:21am EDT PARIS (Reuters) – France’s military will cut about 7,500 jobs next year, a defense ministry source said on Thursday, detailing government belt-tightening plans that the far-right hopes will deliver it votes at municipal elections in 2014. The cuts come as tensions rise within Socialist President Francois Hollande’s 17-month-old coalition, whose poll ratings have fallen to 23 percent due to dissatisfaction about the economy and jobs. The defense ministry said in April that 34,000 jobs would likely be cut over the coming six years, but its overall budget would remain largely static, steering clear of drastic spending cuts after military officials and lawmakers said that would reduce France’s ability to counter global security threats. “Given the six year objectives, (the cut) should be around 7,000 to 7,500 military and civilian personnel in 2014,” the source said on condition of anonymity, ahead of a news conference by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. A handful of bases will be closed or restructured, including an 800-man regiment in the town of Orange in the Vaucluse department, where support for the anti-immigrant, anti-European Union National Front is strong, the source said. Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a National Front member of parliament for Vaucluse, said the cuts would hurt France’s defenses and local economies in areas like hers. “I can only worry about the immediate economic impact in a region that has already been heavily hit by unemployment and economic difficulties,” she said, reacting to media reports about the cuts. “The governments of the right and the left have preferred to sell off our military know-how and lose our diplomatic independence by making small short-term savings. That will cost France’s sovereignty dearly in the coming years,” she said. France’s military employs some 228,000 personnel today. A further 165,000 individuals are employed by the defence industry, not including sub-contractors. The government plans 15 billion euros ($20 billion) in savings next year and 3 billion extra revenues from higher taxes and fighting tax evasion to reduce the budget deficit. (Editing by Tom Heneghan and Robin Pomeroy)

France opens probe into Assad uncle’s assets

A judicial source told AFP the investigation had been opened into Rifaat al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez, after a criminal complaint filed on September 13. The complaint, by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and Transparency International, alleges the 76-year-old illegally acquired “extraordinary wealth” in France through corrupt schemes and embezzlement. Once a stalwart of the Syrian authorities, Rifaat al-Assad broke with his brother’s government in 1984 and reportedly has no links with the current regime, which is fighting in a civil conflict that has left more than 110,000 dead since it began in March 2011. Before splitting from the regime, Rifaat al-Assad was accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands during the crushing of a Sunni Islamist uprising in 1982. The massacre in the town of Hama, by troops allegedly under Rifaat al-Assad’s command, left between 10,000 and 25,000 dead. Rifaat al-Assad has denied any involvement and in 2011 dismissed allegations he was behind the killings as “a myth.” The criminal complaint accuses Rifaat al-Assad of acquiring wealth “in the billions of euros” through corruption, embezzlement of public funds, misuse of corporate assets and other crimes, noting that he had “no known professional activity.” The head of Sherpa, William Bourdon, welcomed the prosecutors’ decision as a “first step” but said a full probe by investigating magistrates needed to be launched. “It is obvious that only an examining magistrate has the necessary authority to deal with offences of such a complex and international nature,” he told AFP, adding that a magistrate would also have more power to seize assets. French media have reported that Rifaat al-Assad’s holdings include a mansion and several dozen apartments in Paris, with newspaper Le Monde estimating the total value of his estate in France at 160 million euros ($215 million). Le Monde reported earlier this year that the potential sale of one of his properties — a mansion on the prestigious Avenue Foch — fell through after potential Russian buyers offered only 70 million euros. Once considered a possible successor to his brother, Rifaat al-Assad fled to France after being placed under house arrest following a failed coup attempt. His estrangement from the regime means he has not been affected by the freezing of assets and travel restrictions imposed by the European Union against Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle.

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