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France, Germany, Poland back permanent EU military HQ

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(PARIS) - France, Germany and Poland want the idea of a permanent European Union military headquarters in Brussels to be pursued despite British opposition, their foreign ministers said Monday.

The ministers issued a joint statement after EU foreign and security policy chief Catherine Ashton released a report on possible ways for states to pool and share military capacities, which the ministers discussed.

The text of her report mentioned a "permanent civilian-military planning and conduct of operations capacity" or permanent European military headquarters, Alain Juppe, Guido Westerwelle and Radoslaw Sikorski said in the statement.

Ashton's report also called for sharing defence capacities, improving EU-NATO relations and operational engagements by EU tactical groups, the statement said.

The talks' conclusions were not immediately officially released because of the differences of opinion.

"The report remains on the table," the ministers said.

"Our three countries want her (Ashton) to continue work with member states on this basis."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague however on Monday voiced opposition to the mooted EU military headquarters, an idea backed by France for years.

"It is very clear that the United Kingdom will not agree now or in the future to an EU permanent HQ," Hague said after talks with EU counterparts in Brussels.

Britain's chief diplomat said an EU military headquarters would be costly and create duplications with existing structures within the NATO transatlantic alliance.

Hague said London would strive to scrub the idea of an EU military HQ from Ashton's report.

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