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Hollande sticks to Afghan pullout at NATO summit

New French leader Hollande affirms controversial Afghan pullout plan at start of NATO summit By The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) ' France's new president says he's being "pragmatic" with his decision to pull French combat troops out of Afghanistan by the year's end.

President Francois Hollande has reiterated his decision to withdraw nearly all of the 3,400 French troops by the end of 2012 'a move that breaks with the alliance's timetable of a unified pullout by the end of 2014.

In Chicago, where the two-day summit opened Sunday, Hollande told French reporters that he also wanted to help NATO continue "to work for our defense and security." He said details should be worked out over a planned NATO antimissile defense system that has rankled Russia.

Hollande's expedited pullout plan has been a major sticking point at the summit. The German government has sharply criticized the French plans with Chancellor Angela Merkel backing the previously agreed principle of "in together, out together."

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