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Hollande pledges fast French troop exit from Afghanistan if elected

(Xinhua)

10:29, April 12, 2012

PARIS, April 11 (Xinhua) -- French Socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande on Wednesday reiterated his promise to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 if elected "unless there was a logistic impossibility."

"I've always said that the disengagement (in Afghanistan) would occur just after the presidential election to be completed by the end of 2012," the candidate said in a debate on state-run France 2 channel.

"There will be no change in my position. There will be no surprise. What I said I'll do. I'll say that during the NATO summit at the end of May, just after the presidential election," he added.

About 4,000 French soldiers are deployed on Afghan territories as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help local authorities restore security and crack down on Taliban insurgents

Since 2001, 82 French soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

France planned to bring home French soldiers by 2014. A quarter of the troops were expected to return to France by the end of this year.

Hollande repackaged his plan to renegotiate the European treaty "which provides only for disciplines and sanctions."

"I do not agree with this approach because I want growth. We must renegotiate the treaty. It's across Europe that we need recovery in a way the Europe can borrow and we can initiate works," the socialist candidate said.

The candidate set his "objective to create 150,000 jobs for the future and 500,000 generation contracts," and reach zero budget gap in 2017 if elected.

As to the sluggish economy, Hollande pledged to accelerate growth to 2 percent this year and to 2.5 percent by 2015.

A daily ifop poll showed Hollande ranking second with 27 percent of intentions of vote, one point behind incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first-round election scheduled for April 22.

But he is expected to outpace Sarkozy after garnering 54 percent versus Sarkozy's 46 percent in the May 6 runoff.

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