France to maintain nuclear arsenal after Obama call

PARIS Thu Jun 20, 2013 6:00am EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - France is not ready to reduce its nuclear arsenal for now, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama offered to cut deployed weapons as part of a global push to lower stockpiles.

Speaking in Berlin, Obama urged Russia to help build on the "New START" treaty that requires both countries to cut stockpiles of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 each by 2018.

"Barack Obama is proposing to Russia that together they reduce. That's fine but that is not how we see things," Le Drian told France Info radio, saying France had already narrowed its arsenal to just under 300 warheads.

"The real issue is nuclear proliferation ... it's the future risk of Iran getting a nuclear weapon," he added.

Moscow gave Obama's call for a cut in deployed arsenals of one third a frosty reaction, saying it could not take such proposals seriously while Washington was beefing up its own anti-missile defenses.

Obama's vision of a "world without nuclear weapons" set out in a speech in Prague in 2009, three months into his presidency, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. But his mixed results so far have fuelled criticism that the prize may have been premature.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; writing by Mark John; editing by Catherine Bremer)