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French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday said that France would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state which launched a terrorist attack against it.
Speaking at a nuclear submarine base in north-western France, Chirac hinted for the first time that his country may use non-conventional weaponry, saying, "A French response could be conventional. It could also be of another nature."
Stressing the need for France's nuclear deterrent, Chirac said, "Anyone who would envisage using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would expose themselves to a firm and adapted response from us."
The French government is under increasing pressure to cut spending, but the president defensively remarked, "Our country's security and its independence have their price".
Chirac said that France had configured its nuclear arsenal to be able to respond "flexibly and reactively" to any threat, by reducing the number of nuclear warheads on certain missiles on board its submarines.
He also warned about the appearance of more and more nations claiming rights to develop WMD's saying, "It is the temptation of certain states to acquire nuclear power, and this in contravention with treaties"
France's so-called force de frappe, as its nuclear capability is known, is considered a purely dissuasive means to protect the nation's vital interests and is not intended for a normal battle situation.
France has had an independent nuclear deterrent since 1960, after an arms program ordered by Charles de Gaulle.