Brazil says no decision for now on fighter contract
Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim on Tuesday ruled out for now a decision on a multi-billion dollar fighter aircraft contract vied for by France, Sweden and the United States.
Jobim said he hopes the competition will be resolved this year but at the moment the government is too tied up dealing with the aftermath of floods and mudslides that left 830 people dead and 25,000 homeless near Rio.
"This is not the moment to decide," he said. "We are in an emergency situation, with rains and disasters," the state-run Agencia Brasil quoted him as saying.
The contract for 36 fighters has an initial value estimated at $4 billion to $10 billion, with the possibility of many more aircraft in the future.
But the competition has dragged on for years, with President Dilma Rousseff inheriting it from her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Jobim indicated that despite the latest setback, the bidding would not go back to square one, and said Russia's Sukhoi fighters would not be allowed back into the running.
"There is nothing like that," he said. "The Russians were already disqualified at the start of the process."
He said the only fighters under consideration were the French-made Rafale, the Swedish Gripen NG and the US F-18 Super Hornet.
A decision on the bid will be followed by at least 12 months of complex negotiations on technical matters and the terms of the deal, Jobim said.
Brazil wants the deal to include not just the aircraft but also technology transfers. Lula had said he favored the Rafale, but in the end he opted to leave the decision to his successor.
© 2011 AFP