|It looks like the UK and france are co-operating on building new aircraft carriers. More power to them. Any opinions?
PARIS : France and Britain looked set to work together on the construction of a new generation of aircraft carriers after Paris said that it has chosen conventional rather than nuclear propulsion for its next flagship vessel.
The announcement from President Jacques Chirac's office confirmed speculation that France and Britain will pool resources to cut costs on their multi-billion euro naval refurbishment programmes -- though the extent of their cooperation remains to be determined.
"The choice brings a response that is perfectly adapted to the operational needs of the decades to come and opens better perspectives of cooperation with the United Kingdom," President Jacques Chirac's office said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to Chirac by telephone to thank him for the decision, Chirac's office said.
Britain has made clear that the two new aircraft carriers it plans to have in service by 2015 will be conventionally-powered, and a decision by France to build a second nuclear vessel -- to match the three year-old Charles De Gaulle -- would have dashed any chance of cooperation.
In London a spokesman at the ministry of defence said the French decision "opens the way for cooperation between industries on either side of the channel in order to satisfy the respective needs of the two navies.
"The decision is particularly significant in this year marking the centenary of the Entente Cordiale and it will help reinforce the defence capabilities of Europe as well as Franco-British cooperation," he said.
In 2004 France and Britain are celebrating a hundred years since the signing of the Entente Cordiale -- the pact that led to their military alliance in World Wars I and II.
In its announcement Chirac's office said that, "following a proposal from the prime minister, the president of the republic has chosen classic propulsion for the second aircraft carrier which France is due to acquire." The ship is to start construction in 2005 and be completed by 2015.
Britain and France have for two years been speaking of ways of linking their separate carrier construction programmes, as a sign of their increasing military cooperation inside the EU.
A year ago the British government awarded the lead role in its 4.5 billion euro programme to the British company BAE Systems, but it gave the task of designing the two carriers to the French Thales.
There has been speculation that the three carriers could be built in the same dockyards, but analysts said it was more likely the cost savings would come in sharing designs and in-ship systems.
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Chirac's decision was "a European choice. We will reinforce our cooperation with the British navy."
The president of the National Assembly's defence committee Guy Teissier said the decision was "first of all political -- because on the diplomatic level it opens up the possibility of Franco-British cooperation and supports the establishment of a European defence with Europe's foremost military power."