Friday, June 3, 2011

US, Romania in 'complicated' F-16 talks: ambassador

BUCHAREST (AFP) – The United States and Romania are in "very complicated" negotiations about the purchase of second-hand F-16 combat aircraft due to financing issues, the US ambassador to Romania said Thursday.

"This is a very complicated negotiation because at some point it requires a financial agreement", ambassador Mark Gitenstein told a press conference.

"We are just not far enough to finalize that" at this stage, he added.

Romania announced in March 2010 it would purchase 24 F-16 aircraft currently used by the US military for 1.3 billion dollars (1.1 billion euros), in order to replace its ageing, Soviet-made MiG Lancer jets.

The announcement triggered criticism from European groups Eurofighter and Saab, which said authorities should have issued a call for tenders.

Then in June 2010, as Romania battled one of the worst recessions in Europe, then finance minister Sebastian Vladescu said the purchase represented one percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and "such an expense was downright impossible" at the moment.

Romania and the United States are close allies and agreed in May to deploy 24 missile interceptors on a military airbase in southern Romania in 2015 as part of the new US defense shield.

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