French armed forces chief quits over Macron's defence budget cuts

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron

"I have made commitments, I am your boss", he had said during his address at an Army event.

De Villiers said he had sought to maintain a French defence force able to do an increasingly hard job within the financial constraints imposed on it.

Mr Macron's approval rating fell five points to 54 per cent in July, according to a monthly poll by BVA for Orange and La Tribune.

However, Mr Macron has also said he wants to raise defence spending in 2018 by €1.5bn to €34.2bn. "I'm behind our troops", he assured.

Mr. Macron named 55-year-old General Francois Lecointre, now the top military adviser to the Prime Minister, as his replacement.

Gen de Villiers' resignation comes a day after a bill to toughen France's security laws passed its first reading.

Macron's own behavior has elicited criticism, notably by those who accuse him of authoritarian tendencies after he overwhelmingly won election in May and saw his new centrist party dominate last month's parliamentary elections.

Opposition Republican member Damien Abad, who sits on the parliamentary defense committee, blamed Macron's "excessive authoritarianism".

He said: "I may be stupid, but I know when I'm being had".

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The dispute escalated over the past week, with de Villiers issuing an appeal on Facebook saying "Watch out for blind trust".

De Villiers, whose brother Philippe heads an ultraconservative political group called Movement for France (MPF), became Fillon's military adviser in 2008 while the conservative politician was prime minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency, and became head of the army two years later.

Retired general Dominique Trinquand, an adviser to Macron during his campaign, said the row had cast a pall over his otherwise "remarkable" debut.

A former head of the French air force, General Vincent Lanata, told L'Express news weekly he was "very shocked" by Macron's treatment of de Villiers.

During the parade, Macron rode down the Champs-Elysees avenue in an open-topped military vehicle with a grim-faced de Villiers as Trump looked on.

Macron pledged during his election campaign to boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2025, in line with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation targets.

Nuclear-armed France and Britain are the biggest military powers in the European Union.

French soldiers are also deployed in the streets of French cities under a state of emergency implemented after a series of terror attacks since 2015 that have killed almost 230 people.

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