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France confident about A400M plan

Jan. 8, 2010 at 10:00 AM

PARIS, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- France is expressing confidence about airplane manufacturer Airbus's troubled A400M military transport project but Defense Minister Herve Morin urged client countries to shoulder the project's unforeseen extra costs.

"We want this program to be complete," Morin said in a televised interview in France this week. "We have put all possible technological efforts into this plane."

His remarks followed a report Tuesday by the Financial Times Deutschland that Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company intended to drop the program because of doubts that the seven governments that have placed orders for the tactical and cargo A400M planes would come up with another $7.6 billion in payments.

Airbus Chief Executive Officer Thomas Enders was quoted as saying that he no longer believed in pursuing the program and was prepared to shelve the project. Contracts has been signed for 180 planes at a fixed price of $28.7 billion.

The A400M is Europe's biggest military project but years behind schedule and is costing the company nearly $150 million a month.

After repeated delays, Airbus had the plane's maiden flight last month in Spain, where the aircraft is being manufactured.

Germany, the biggest customer of the A400M, has ordered 60 units but Chancellor Angela Merkel resists revisions of the deal, refusing to plow more money into the long-delayed project.

"For us, the contract stands as the basis," for further talks, said German Deputy Defense Minister Christian Schmidt. "EADS has put its demands on the table and that will have to be a matter for discussion."

Defense ministers from the European countries which have placed order for the plane are to meet next week in London to resolve how the project will be funded.

Rather than canceling the project and injecting additional funds, some officials have proposed cutting the number of planes to be delivered.

Turkey, among the countries vying for the plane, has expressed its commitment to the project but has sided by Germany in refusing to pour more money into the program.

"We do not wish to see the A400M project canceled and we do not think it is right to decrease the number of planes to be purchased," Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said in an interview with the Anatolia news agency.

The project was first agreed to in 2003 by Germany, Spain, France, Britain, Turkey, Belgium and Luxembourg.

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Topics: Herve Morin
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