Talks stall over future of troubled Airbus military plane

AFP - [email protected] • 22 Jan, 2010 Updated Fri 22 Jan 2010 12:57 CEST
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Talks in Berlin on the troubled Airbus A400M military transport plane ended without a breakthrough on Friday but the parties still aim to reach an agreement by January 31, Germany said.

The talks on Thursday and Friday among representatives from seven NATO powers that have ordered the aircraft and Airbus parent EADS were conducted in a "constructive atmosphere," defence ministry spokesman Christian Dienst said.

"The countries and EADS are to meet again soon with the goal of reaching a solution acceptable to all by the end of January," Dienst told a regular government briefing in Berlin.

The seven countries have ordered 180 of the aircraft for €20 billion ($28 billion) from European plane maker Airbus but the project is three years behind schedule and a reported €11 billion over budget.

Airbus has threatened to pull the plug unless the seven - Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey - stump up more cash, warning that the fate of the European aerospace giant depended on the project.

France has said it is ready to pay more, as long as others follow suit, but Germany is seen as more reluctant. Berlin has ordered 60 of the aircraft and France 50, and are the two biggest customers.

"We stand by the A400M, but not at any price," Dienst said.

French business daily La Tribune cited an unidentified source on its website as saying the programme needs an extra €5.2 billion and that EADS in Berlin had offered to provide €800 million of this. Contacted by AFP, EADS declined to comment on the report.

Airbus has 52,000 employees around Europe, with about 10,000 working on the A400M, a state-of-the-art new aircraft that can carry troops, armoured vehicles and helicopters which would replace Europe's ageing fleet of transport planes.

The date of location of the next round of talks was under discussion, Dienst said.



AFP 2010/01/22 12:57

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