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France Threatens use of Nuclear Weapons

France said it would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack or used weapons of mass destruction against it. Reaffirming the need for its costly nuclear deterrent, President Jacques Chirac said security came at a price and France must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state\'s centres of power and its \"capacity to act\". Chirac\'s speech pointed to a change of emphasis to underline the growing threat France perceives from terrorism. \"The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part,\" Chirac said at a northwestern nuclear submarine base. \"This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind,\" said Chirac, his most explicit linkage of a threat of a nuclear response to a terrorist attack. Chirac, 73, who as president is commander-in-chief, said France\'s nuclear forces had been reshaped with the new strategy in mind and the number of warheads on nuclear submarines had been reduced to allow targeted strikes. \"Against a regional power, our choice would not be between inaction or annihilation,\" Chirac said in his first major speech on France\'s nuclear arms strategy since 2001. \"The flexibility and reactivity of our strategic forces would enable us to exercise our response directly against its centres of power and its capacity to act.\" Critics have questioned the role of France\'s nuclear deterrent, which accounts for some 10 percent of the overall defence budget, in a post war world. Especially as France is struggling to haul its public deficit to below EU limits. Experts believe the French arsenal comprises some 300 warheads The Le Monde daily said Chirac was reaffirming nuclear deterrence ahead of 2007 presidential elections which could usher in a new leader less attached to the policy.