Bulgaria seeks to cancel military plane orders: minister

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Bulgaria plans to cancel orders for three military helicopters and two transport planes from France's Eurocopter and Italy's Alenia in a bid to reduce costs, the defence minister said Wednesday.

"Very hard negotiations are ahead," Defence Minister Anyu Angelov told a press conference.

Talks with Eurocopter were already under way about dropping three Panther helicopters from an initial 358-million-euro (473-million-dollar) order for six of the Panther AS323s for its navy and 12 Cougar AS352 choppers for the air force.

"Our aim is to refuse the last three Panther helicopters (from Eurocopter)," he added.

Bulgaria will push for the bank guarantee for the three cancelled helicopters to be used as payment for three Panthers that have already been delivered, he said.

Eleven of the 12 Cougars and three Panthers have already been delivered.

Bulgaria will also seek to cut back its 91-million-euro order for five C-27J Spartan transport aircraft from Italy's Alenia Aeronautica, Angelov added.

"With Alenia Aeronautica, we want to refuse the fourth and fifth aircraft on the contract and pay only for the third Spartan plane," the minister said.

He did not specify however how much money Bulgaria would be able to save by renegotiating the two deals.

"I cannot say if our proposals will be accepted," Angelov said.

Severely pinched by the economic crisis, Bulgaria's right-wing government has been seeking ways to cut spending and boost revenues in order to narrow its widening budget gap.

© 2010 AFP

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