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French military chief resigns after Macron rebuke: statement

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Chief of the Defence Staff, French Army General Pierre de Villiers, pictured aboard a command car during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017 © POOL/AFP/File / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT

PARIS, Jul 19 – France’s military chief resigned on Wednesday after he was rebuked by President Emmanuel Macron for protesting defence spending cuts.

General Pierre de Villiers, said in a statement he no longer felt able to command the sort of armed forces “that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people”.

The row between the president and De Villiers, 60, 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 850 million euros ($980 million) from the budget.

Macron replied later that “I am the boss”, adding in a newspaper interview at the weekend that if there was a difference of opinion, “it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position”.

France’s Chief of the Defence Staff General Pierre de Villiers arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris for a meeting on July 27, 2016 © AFP/File / BERTRAND GUAY

De Villiers said Wednesday that throughout his career, he had believed it was his duty to tell politicians “of my reservations”.

The row has provoked a debate about whether 39-year-old Macron had humiliated his military chief or whether he had no choice but to exert his authority just two months into his presidency.

Macron, a centrist, won the presidency in May by defeating far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

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