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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that Britain's decision to leave the European Union should not jeopardise the bloc's principle of free movement.
"They have decided to leave. I think the worst attitude would be to contest their choice or call into question the very foundations of the European Union," Hollande told a conference on Europe in Paris.
"So we have to see these negotiations to the end, while maintaining the principles of the European Union, notably that of free movement," he said.
In wide ranging remarks, Hollande said that although Britain was leaving the EU, it should continue to play a role in Europe's defence and that European nations would have to be less reliant on the United States for defence.
"There are elections in the United States. A female president will be elected," Hollande quipped, using the French feminine form "une presidente" without mentioning Hillary Clinton by name, to cheers and laughs.
"Beyond what she represents or her beliefs, know that we must not wait for the United States for the defence European territory. The U.S. will ask Europeans to defend themselves," he said.
Hollande said the European Union and European states must do more to boost economic growth and not leave the responsibility to the European Central Bank (ECB) alone.
Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Bolton