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Austria delays decision on whether to scrap Eurofighter jets

Austria delays decision on whether to scrap Eurofighter jets
FILE PHOTO: Two German Eurofighter jets simulate the interception of a plane over the Baltic sea November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sabine Siebold/File Photo   -   Copyright  Sabine Siebold(Reuters)
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VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria will not decide whether to scrap its fleet of Eurofighter jets until a parliamentary inquiry into their purchase wraps up and there is clarity over a judicial dispute related to the deal, the country’s leader said on Wednesday.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s comments suggest it will be months or longer before the government reaches a decision that it had said it would announce this year.

Newspaper Die Presse reported last week the coalition government was split over whether to get rid of the jets, with Kurz’s conservatives favouring keeping them and the far-right Freedom Party, which controls the Defence Ministry, taking the opposite view. The dispute is delaying a decision, it added.

“It is important to reach a decision when you are able to,” Kurz told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting, when asked about a possible delay.

Austria is locked in a legal battle with planemaker Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium, which also includes BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo.

Vienna accuses them of fraud and wilful deception in connection with its $2 billion Eurofighter order in 2003. They deny Austria’s allegations.

“We need clarity on whether anyone has done anything wrong, on whether partners currently being worked with have done anything wrong and when there is clarity on this then we will be able to reach further decisions,” Kurz said, referring to the legal dispute and an ongoing parliamentary inquiry.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Potter)

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