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France's army chief resigns on defense spending cut

20 July 2017

Let there be no doubt who is in charge of France.

The row between Emmanuel Macron and De Villiers blew up last week when the chief of the defence staff told a parliamentary committee he would not allow the armed forces to be "screwed" by plans to cut $980 million from the budget.

The unusually public bickering between a French president and the army highlights early criticism of Mr. Macron. It could also foreshadow similar challenges for Macron as he tries to reduce the deficit and government spending and shake up the stagnant economy.

The head of the French armed forces, General Pierre de Villiers, said in a statement on Wednesday that he had tendered his resignation to the president and that it had been accepted.

Lecointre, head of the military Cabinet of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, is known for leading the European Union training mission in Mali on 2013; he is expected to take on his new role on Thursday. The government spokesman called him well-suited for Macrons' reform-focused strategy. Macron's office did not immediately comment.

A former head of the French air force, General Vincent Lanata, told L'Express news weekly on Friday he was "very shocked" by Macron's "rant" at De Villiers. "I am your boss".

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"It's not Erdoganism, but it's not far off", he added in a reference to the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who faces accusations from opposition leaders of being a dictator in the aftermath of last year's failed military coup.

The dispute escalated over the past week, with de Villiers issuing an appeal on Facebook saying "Watch out for blind trust. Because no one is without shortcomings, no one deserves to be blindly followed".

Mr. Macron named 55-year-old General Francois Lecointre, now the top military adviser to the Prime Minister, as his replacement. In a response to General's remarks, President Macron said, "If something opposes the military chief of staff and the president, the military chief of staff goes." .

The General said, in a statement, he could no longer "guarantee the durability of the army model" that he considered necessary to ensure France's protection.

Macron appears unbowed, attributing tensions to fear of the change he is trying to embody. The move is the culmination of a public spat between the two men.

"There will be hard debates".

France's army chief resigns on defense spending cut