World News

French goverment wins no-confidence vote on Afghanistan

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government easily survived its first no-confidence vote in parliament on Tuesday, facing down opposition charges that it was sending extra troops to Afghanistan simply to please its U.S. allies.

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced this month that France would dispatch up to 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, where it is part of a NATO coalition fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The opposition Socialists have accused the government of being too pro-American and submitted a censure motion in parliament after they were refused a vote on the deployment.

“The decision to send reinforcements is more political than military,” Socialist party leader Francois Hollande told the National Assembly, also challenging Sarkozy’s willingness to move towards rejoining NATO’s integrated command.

“We are today faced with a (U.S.) president who is at the end of his mandate and no one knows what his successor’s policy will be. Why such a rush one year before the end of George Bush’s mandate?” Hollande said.

As expected, the motion against the government in the National Assembly lower house fell well short of the 288 votes needed for victory, with just 227 lawmakers backing it. Sarkozy’s UMP party has 311 deputies in the 577-seat parliament.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon, defending the government line, said it was necessary to increase France’s presence in Afghanistan -- which is around 1,500 troops -- to bring peace and the rule of law to the country.

“The opposition accuses us of Atlanticism, a pleasant way of saying we are in the pay of George Bush. Everyone understands that their aim is to surf on one of our most questionable failings: basic anti-Americanism,” Fillon told lawmakers.

“Reading this motion, I see nothing that indicates a parallel plan, a serious plan for Afghanistan,” he added.

Reporting by Francois Murphy