Britain still a world power despite cuts: Cameron

British Defence Ministry struggles to meet 8% budget cut over next 5 years.

Washington: Prime Minister David Cameron rejected on Sunday the notion that Britain would lose clout on the international stage as a result of severe defence cuts.

"I don`t accept that for one single moment. And I`d like to take this opportunity on a US television station to say very clearly, Britain is maintaining its world role," Cameron told CNN.

"You don`t need quite so many tanks when you`re not facing the Soviet Army that`s going to roll across Europe. It`s right to make change. Change makes you stronger, more relevant and more powerful in the world, and that`s what we`ve done."

The government unveiled a sweeping defence review in October that included axing its fleet of Harrier jets and retiring the Ark Royal aircraft carrier early.

Some 17,000 service personnel are to be scrapped from the Army, Navy and Air Force by 2015 as the Defence Ministry struggles to meet an eight percent budget cut over the next five years.

The austerity measures have led some observers and critics to question whether Britain might have to scale back future military operations and accept a more limited international role.

But Cameron insisted this would not be the case and said Britain`s extensive network of embassies and diplomats, its so-called "soft power”, more than made up for any perceived loss of firepower.

"Britain is an absolutely front-ranked player, and will remain so," he said.

On Tuesday, Britain revealed that its economy slumped unexpectedly in the fourth quarter of 2010, giving ammunition to critics who argue that Cameron is cutting too much, too fast.

But Cameron insisted the cuts were necessary and insisted his coalition government was doing it in a way that supports growth.

"We can`t ignore what is in front of us, which is, you know, the biggest budget deficit of any advanced country," he said.

"Even as we`re making cuts in Britain, we`re protecting the science budget, we`re boosting the number of apprenticeships, we`re cutting welfare rolls so actually we can put money into transport infrastructure and improving the productive capacity of the economy."

Bureau Report

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