- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

PARIS (AP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy has submitted a formal request to rejoin the NATO command structure following a 43-year absence, French and NATO officials said Friday.

A letter with the request was presented Thursday to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during an EU summit in Brussels, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. They declined to provide any further details on the letter’s content.

Submitting the letter was a formality, but an essential step in France’s return to the alliance _ which celebrates its 60th birthday in two weeks.

The NATO official said the alliance must now decide what sort of command posts France will take up.

Earlier this month, Sarkozy announced his intention to rejoin NATO’s integrated military command, saying he wanted France to be able participate fully in alliance military planning and in crafting NATO policy.

The French government on Tuesday easily survived a no-confidence vote that had been proposed by Prime Minister Francois Fillon after lawmakers on both the left and right voiced fears that rejoining NATO’s military command would compromise France’s independence.

Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO’s military command in 1966, seeking a less U.S.-oriented policy during the Cold War. Sarkozy has argued that threats have changed and it is time to rejoin.

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