Britain's PM suggests using foreign aid cash for military

Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:08pm EST
 
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AMRITSAR, India (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron has raised the possibility of diverting hundreds of millions of pounds from foreign aid to defense and security.

Faced with anger in his ruling Conservative party about further possible defense cuts at a time when he says Britain must spend 0.7 percent of gross domestic product on foreign aid, Cameron told reporters he was interested in exploring ways to use money earmarked for foreign aid for wider security purposes.

He said the department for international development - whose budget for foreign aid is set to top 11 billion pounds by 2015 - already worked closely with the foreign and defense ministries, but that more could be done.

"If you are asking me can they work even more closely together, can we make sure that the funds we have at our disposal are used to provide basic levels of stability and security in deeply broken and fragile states, then I think we should," he told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to India.

"Can we do more, can we build on this approach? I am very open to ideas like that."

Britain deploys thousands of troops in Afghanistan and his comments could allow the government to use funds originally intended for foreign aid for what it regards as peace keeping, easing the strain on public finances.

That might placate some lawmakers in Cameron's party who regularly ask him how he can justify spending so much on foreign aid at a time when Britain's budget crunch is forcing the closure of hospitals, fire stations and police stations.

Britain's gross government debt was 89 percent of GDP in 2012, up from 44 percent in 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook database.

(Reporting By Andrew Osborn; Editing by Jason Webb)

 
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron visits the holy Sikh shrine of Golden temple in Amritsar February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Munish Sharma