Britain said on Tuesday it would discuss closer military cooperation with France in talks this week, but played down a report that the two countries would share aircraft carriers to save costs.
Britain is building two new carriers at a cost of 5.2 billion pounds but, like France, is under pressure to find military savings to rebalance public finances.
The Times newspaper said the two nations were considering plans to save money by coordinating their carrier missions so that at least one vessel was on patrol at any time.
It quoted an unidentified British naval source as saying Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy would announce the carrier sharing plan at a November summit.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox travels to Paris on Friday for talks with his French counterpart Herve Morin, but a British Ministry of Defence (MoD) source told Reuters they would not be making any announcements on carrier sharing.
We will be looking at areas of closer cooperation between the two countries. But there are no plans to share carriers, the source said.
Fox and Morin would discuss Afghanistan, the NATO military alliance and broader cooperation but there was no specific agenda for the one-hour meeting, an MoD spokeswoman added.
However in Paris, a French Defence Ministry source said sharing aircraft carriers had been touched upon a few months ago and is now back on the agenda.
You have to see that there is an opportunity for both sides, especially for us. Instead of us paying for a second one, we have to work with our partners, the French source added.
France, which has only one aircraft carrier, has itself pushed back for several years the construction of a second, with a decision whether to go ahead delayed till 2011.
The carrier sharing proposal would ensure one of three ships -- one French and two British -- would always patrol the seas, The Times said. It would also make it easier for Britain to scrap or downgrade one of the planned carriers, which are due to enter service in 2016 and 2018.
Earlier this month, a defence ministry source told Reuters that Britain might cancel one or both of the planned aircraft carriers to cut costs, though there were no plans to scale back the country's nuclear deterrent.
The British carriers are being built by a consortium including BAE Systems and Babcock International of Britain, and French company Thales.
(Additional reporting by Karolina Tagaris in London and Elisabeth Pineau in Paris; Editing by Jon Boyle)