PARIS - The chairman of the French national assembly's defence committee said Monday France and Britain might cooperate in the field of nuclear submarines.
In an interview with right-wing daily Le Figaro, Guy Teissier of the ruling UMP said the two countries could "avoid redundancies and share their resources," adding: "We can envisage cooperation between our nuclear submarines."
Teissier said: "This could only happen in a period of relative peace, like today" because "in case of crisis, each one should take back possession of its own dissuasion (force), since nuclear fire cannot be shared."
He went on: "One might imagine that each country maintains its effort of investment in dissuasion, without lowering its guard, while making functional savings thanks to cooperation."
Teissier recalled an old project to cooperate on aircraft carriers, "a project that was difficult to achieve as the aircraft carriers bore atomic weapons, but cooperating on sharing the means would lower the costs."
Bilateral sharing of aircraft carriers was deemed "unrealistic" Friday by the French and British defence ministers, Herve Morin and Liam Fox. But they did not rule out joint defence projects in other fields.
Last March, then British prime minister Gordon Brown said Britain and France would work together more closely on nuclear defence, after a report that the two countries could share submarine patrols.
Brown said he had reached an agreement with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on nuclear cooperation during a visit by Sarkozy to London.
"UK and French cooperation is at its highest level," he told reporters in London.
"We have agreed a degree of co-operation that is, I think, greater than we have had previously but we will retain, as will France, our independent nuclear deterrent".
Brown gave no further details, but he stressed that he and his government "do not see the case for us withdrawing the independent nuclear deterrent that we have".
His comments came as the Guardian newspaper reported that France had offered to create a joint nuclear deterrent with Britain by sharing submarine patrols, but London had so far opposed the idea as politically unacceptable.
Both Britain and France now follow a system of continuous at-sea deterrence, running at least one nuclear-armed submarine which is submerged and undetected at any given time.
But the system has faced criticism from disarmament campaigners who question its use in a post-Cold War world.