Russia awaiting details on French warship offer: minister

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Russia on Wednesday said it was awaiting from France the financial details of a French bid to supply helicopter carriers to the Russian navy, after Moscow threw open the contract to an international tender.

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

"We are expecting the detailed financial conditions" from France, said Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

"We will examine them and then refer to experts, not just in Russia but also abroad," he added.

Serdyukov was returning from a visit to Paris alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov where he had held talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

After the talks, Sarkozy's office said it was still "confident" to win the deal.

Serdyukov has said the international tender will take place in September, for two ships and the producer of the Mistral -- France's STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire -- would be allowed to bid.

The deal is reportedly worth about 600 million euros (765 million dollars) and would secure jobs in French yards, but France's NATO allies have expressed concern about arming Russia with modern Western weaponry.

The throwing open of the tender came after the umbrella organisation of public Russian shipbuilders complained that handing the contract to France without a tender could be illegal.

Other candidates could include Russia's Zvezda shipbuilder in the Far East which has a joint venture with South Korea's Daewoo Marine Shipbuilding and Engineering.

© 2010 AFP

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