Georgia warns of 'threat' from French warship sale to Russia

20th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Georgia said Monday that French plans to supply Mistral-class helicopter carriers to the Russian navy posed a threat to regional security.

Nino Kalandadze, the former Soviet republic's deputy foreign minister, said the proposed sale "threatens the security not only of Georgia, but the entire region."

"This is not a desirable step. For us, the Mistral sale definitely represents a threat," she told a press briefing.

Moscow has been negotiating with Paris for months to buy the ships, in its first ever attempted purchase of military hardware from a NATO member state, but talks have been mired by disputes over technology transfer.

Russia last month threw open the planned purchase to an international tender, ending France's status as the exclusive bidder, but President Nicolas Sarkozy said he remained confident France would win the deal.

Georgia, which hopes to join NATO and fought a brief war with Russia in August 2008, has warned the ships could be used against it in a fresh conflict and urged France to reconsider the sale.

The deal is reportedly worth about 600 million euros (785 million dollars) and would secure jobs in French shipyards, but France's NATO allies have expressed concern about arming Russia with modern Western weaponry.

© 2010 AFP

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