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Feb 17, 9:23 AM EST

Merkel: Germany will raise defense spending, but slowly

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BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country will stick to its long-term commitment to raise defense spending to levels agreed with NATO partners - but no hurry about it.

Merkel said that "Germany is conscious of its responsibility" to spend more on arms but added other issues are also important for global security.

She said Germany would stick to the long-term goal of raising defense spending to 2 percent of economic output by 2024.

Merkel spoke Friday when she and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were asked about U.S. President Donald Trump's calls for NATO allies to carry more of the financial burden. NATO members agreed at a 2014 summit in Wales that countries not currently meeting the 2 percent goal would do so over a decade.

Merkel said Germany had increased defense spending by 8 percent in this year's budget over last year. "We must do more here, no question, but the matters of development aid and crisis prevention are also important," she said.

She said that that NATO was also important for the United States and served to strengthen U.S. influence in world affairs.

Trump set off alarm bells last month by calling NATO "obsolete," though he has subsequently told European leaders he agrees on the "fundamental importance" of the military alliance. He has emphasized the need for all members to pay a fair share for defense, an issue that NATO leaders themselves have pushed for years.

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