French Military Chief Resigns After Disagreement With Macron Over Budget Cuts

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France's army chief abruptly quit on Wednesday in a mushrooming dispute with President Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts to the military, underlying the challenges the new leader will face over planned economic reforms.

In a statement, 60 year-old Pierre de Villiers said on Wednesday he had tried to maintain a defence force able to perform an increasingly hard job within the financial constraints imposed on it but was no longer able to.

"If the military chief of staff and the president are opposed on something, the military chief of staff goes", Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche.

De Villiers, a widely respected figure who had been in the job for three years and was popular with the rank and file, said he had no choice but to stand down.

De Villiers, head of the military since 2014, has spoken out in the past to defend budgets and insisted that it was his "duty" to express his concerns about resources amid the sustained threat of extremist attacks.

De Villiers is believed to have used foul language while criticising Macron's € 850 million cut in the defence budget.

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Tension over Macron's proposed budget restructuring has been simmering in France in recent days.

The leader of the hard-left France Unbowed, Jean-Luc Melenchon, called it an "enormous mistake" on Macron's part.

Opposition Republican member Damien Abad, who sits on the parliamentary defense committee, blamed Macron's "excessive authoritarianism".

Mr Macron sought to defuse the row, promising a €1.5 billion rise in military spending in 2018 to €34.2 billion, but Gen de Villiers resigned anyway, triggering a barrage of criticism of the president for alleged authoritarianism and a lack of understanding military matters. President Donald Trump is saluting the United States' "unbreakable" bond with France.

In his first foreign visit after taking office, he visited French troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the West African country of Mali.

It also appeared at odds with Mr. Macron's commitment to increase military spending to 2 percent of G.D.P. - the amount that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries are required to spend on defense - by 2025.