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French officials condemn military generals who say country is 'in peril'

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French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a news conference following the weekly cabinet meeting discussions at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France
French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a news conference following the weekly cabinet meeting discussions at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France   -   Copyright  Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool via AP Photo
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French government officials criticised a controversial open letter published in a right-wing magazine this week, with the country's prime minister stating he condemned the text with "great firmness".

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the letter, signed by around 20 French generals, was "contrary to all our republican principles and to the honour and duty of the army."

The editorial published last week in magazine Valeurs Actuelles denounced people who create "hatred between communities" and who want a "racial war".

It was also endorsed by a hundred high-ranking officers and more than a thousand other soldiers, the magazine said.

The officers called on President Emmanuel Macron to defend "patriotism" and not to procrastinate in responding to what they described as rising violence, warning that there could be "civil war".

Some read the editorial as hinting that members of the military could intervene if "laxity" continued to spread.

The open letter said that France was "in peril" stating that "Islamism and hordes from the suburbs" were transforming the country. They said the nation was disintegrating.

Although members of the French military can hold public office, they are not allowed to join political groups or associations. Even retired, they are expected to be neutral and their freedom of expression is restricted.

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen voiced her support for the generals, stating that the government should ask themselves what led to many officers to break their silence.

She said even if politicians did not agree with the generals, they should listen to them.

PM Castex on Wednesday hit back at Le Pen asking how people "who aspire to exercise state responsibilities" could support an initiative "that does not exclude turning against the republican state."

Le Pen has already announced that she is running for president in the next year's election.

Castex emphasised that the generals were only representing themselves and reiterated that they could face sanctions.

Florence Parly, France's armed forces minister, said the editorial was an "insult thrown in the faces of thousands of soldiers" in an interview with Franceinfo on Monday, stating that they will could face sanctions.

She said the editorial did not reflect the views of the armed forces stating: "the vast majority of the military defends republican values, ensures the protection of the French, ensures the defence of France in accordance with the principles of neutrality and loyalty which is at the heart of their status."