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France to open talks with Russia on warship contract

RIA Novosti

18:14 13/10/2009 PARIS/MOSCOW, October 13 (RIA Novosti) - France has decided to start official negotiations on the sale of a warship to Russia, a French economic journal reported on Tuesday.

Russia is seeking to buy a Mistral-class helicopter carrier, worth 400-500 million euros.

Citing unnamed sources, Les Echos said Paris would formulate its terms and the further course of negotiations would depend on the response from Moscow. A final decision is expected in mid-November at the latest.

The warship would be built at the STX shipyard in France in partnership with the French shipbuilder DCNS.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on October 1 that France would sell Russia a warship if the two countries were able to reach an agreement. He did not elaborate on what kind of political accord or agreement was involved.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said on September 19 that in buying the ship Russia was seeking technology to boost its shipbuilding industry.

He added that Russian shipbuilders strongly opposed the deal and that the government had yet to make a decision on whether Russia needs to build costly aircraft carriers.

A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 soldiers. The vessel is equipped with a 69-bed hospital and can be used as an amphibious command ship.

Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, said in August that Russia had plans to buy three or four ships of the same class to be jointly built in Russia.

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