France Warns U.S. Over Airbus Cancellation

Says it is looking into Pentagon decision to 'skew' bidding for a contract to favor Boeing

France warned the United States on March 9 that Europe will study the "possible implications" of a Pentagon decision to skew bidding for a contract to supply tanker jets in favor of a U.S. firm.

Boeing is poised to win the 26-billion-euro defense deal after partners EADS and Northrop Grumman dropped out, citing changed Pentagon requirements, in a decision that has already provoked EU anger.

France, home to EADS' subsidiary Airbus that was to have made the planes, added its voice to protests, accusing Washington of foregoing a chance to buy a better and cheaper plane that in 2008 had been frontrunner for the deal.

"We note with great disappointment that the call for tenders made by the Pentagon on February 25 de facto forced the U.S. authorities into a dialogue with a single supplier," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

Paris said the change in the contract requirements, which penalized the larger Airbus jet in favor of a smaller Boeing one, had been done "to the detriment of competition, guarantor of best capability and best price."

"We regret the U.S. air force has denied itself the capabilities of the Airbus A330 Multirole Transport and Tanker, upon which Northrop and EADS' bid was based, the qualities of which were recognized by the Pentagon in 2008."

Valero noted that France, Britain, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had chosen the A330 and would receive deliveries in 2010.

"France, with the European Commission and its European partners will examine this new development and its possible implications," he warned, implicitly suggestion that Europe could take measures in response.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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