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PM backs Sarkozy in re-election bid

David Cameron has indicated that he backed Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential re-election bid despite months of tense relations between the pair.

Following wide-ranging talks in Paris, the Prime Minister praised the president for his "leadership and courage". But he declined to follow German chancellor Angela Merkel's pledge to help him out on the campaign trail, joking he was unlikely to help the French premier in next month's poll.

Mr Cameron said: "(The summit) has given me the chance to wish my friend well in the battle he has ahead." He added: "I admire Nicolas Sarkozy's leadership and courage and I think he's achieved great things with his country and clearly the future is an issue for the French people. I make those points but I'm not altogether sure that if I went on the campaign trail in France they might have the effect my friend would want them to have."

The two men, backed up by senior British cabinet ministers and their French counterparts, made a series of agreements to co-operate on military planning, defence procurement and nuclear power at the UK-France summit.

During a press conference at the Elysee Palace the premiers went to great lengths to show relations were warm after terse rhetoric following Mr Cameron's decision to employ Britain's veto on a new treaty to stabilise the eurozone last year.

Mr Sarkozy even appeared now to defend Mr Cameron's decision not to commit the UK to the agreement back in December, saying that he may have done the same thing had he been in his position. He added: "We have had divergences of views but perhaps, had I been in David Cameron's position, I would have defended Britain's interests in exactly the same way as he has.

"What I can tell you is that there has never been a personal opposition between us. A head of state is there precisely to defend the interests of his nation, to lead others to understand how vital those interests are."

The summit came on the first anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising in Libya which eventually led to the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with the help of an international military force in which the UK and France played leading roles.

Among the decisions signed off was an agreement to accelerate plans to create a joint control and command centre for future military operations. That would put in place a rapidly deployable headquarters with a formalised command structure bringing together UK and French forces following joint working in Libya.

The two leaders also agreed to push ahead with the next phase of plans to build a new generation of pilotless "fighter drone" aircraft. The bilateral programme will be worked on by Britain's BAE and France's Dassault - former rivals on the Typhoon project.

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