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Canada's Budget Brings Home NATO Troops

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CANADA is pulling its forces out of Europe as part of a large spending and tax cut announced this week in the nation's budget. Canadian forces - a small part of NATO - have been based in Germany since the end of World War II.

The defense cuts alone will produce savings of $2.2 billion (Canadian; US$1.9 billion) over the next five years. Canada's annual defense budget is presently $12.8 billion.

"The Soviet Union has ceased to exist and the conventional military threat in Europe has all but disappeared," Minister of Finance Donald Mazankowski told the House of Commons. Canada will close two military bases in Germany: The air base in Baden will be shut in 1993 and the Army base in Lahr will be abandoned by 1994. Canada will also drop plans to leave an emergency force of 1,100 troops in Europe. That brigade, along with two squadrons of CF-18 Hornets, will be stationed in Canada "ready to answer an y call."

NATO Secretary-General Manfred Worner said he regretted Canada's decision. The United States has said it will still have 150,000 troops in Europe by 1995 - less than half the number there before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Other defense cuts include the cancellation of a new fighter base in Quebec and the closing of a communications facility in Bermuda. Canada's armed forces, now 84,000 strong, will fall to 75,000 by 1996.

The budget is being called conservative even by critics who usually say the Progressive Conservative government hasn't gone far enough since it came to power in September of 1984.

Other budget changes include:

* The 5 percent personal income tax surtax falls to 4 percent in July of this year and to 3 percent next January.

* For one year, Canadians may withdraw $20,000 from Registered Retirement Savings Plans to be used as a down payment on a house. The homeowner would have to pay the "loan" back to themselves in equal annual installments over a 15 year period.

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