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President: Romania cannot afford F-16 fighters

Romanian President Traian Basescu told private television Pro TV he pointed out during his visit to the United States that Romania cannot afford to buy F16 fighters without a long-term financing solution.
Romania may sign a contract to buy the planes only if a long-term financing solution is found, said the head of state.

Romania cannot afford to pay billions of dollars in the next five or six years, but will be able to pay up to $300 million annually, said the head of state. He highlighted the U.S. put no pressure on the country to buy the planes.

"As a NATO member, Romania must have 48 fighters compatible with the North Atlantic Alliance's equipment. Whether they are F16 planes, Rafale or SAAB, what matter is to find a financing solution," said Basescu.He added the United States proposed a regional project whereby several NATO members, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, possibly Hungary, would create a pool to support the purchase of F16 planes.

U.S. Ambassador Mark Gitenstein said Thursday that one of the issues discussed by Basescu in the USA was the purchase of F16 fighters, possibly through a regional agreement.The ambassador explained that there could be a "regional effort," whereby Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia would buy a series of new planes. This would help Lockheed Martin's production line and reduce the cost of the aircrafts well as the cost of pilot training.

Still, the final agreement would be bilateral, between Romania and the United States, said Gitenstein.
Romania's High Council for National Defense (CSAT) approved in March 2010 the purchase of 24 used F16 fighters, for around $1.3 billion, including technical assistance for 3-5 years, logistical support, flight simulators, training, transport, weaponry, ammunition and administrative costs.
However, in August 2010, Prime Minister Emil Boc announced the government cannot afford the purchase.

In spring this year, Bulgarian officials announced possible negotiations between Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey for a joint purchase of such aircraft. This information was neither confirmed, nor denied by Romanian authorities.
ForMin Baconschi: U.S. Ambassador's public statements must be given full credit
Referring to the statement the U.S. Ambassador in Bucharest made the day before about Romania acquiring new F-16 jet fighters, Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said that the U.S. diplomat must be given full credit whenever he makes public statements.

'I assure you that the U.S. Ambassador must be given full credit when he goes public,' Baconschi on Friday told journalists at the Palace of Parliament, when asked whether Romania will buy new F-16 fighter aircraft.'This bilateral topic is extremely important for national security,' added the Romanian chief diplomat.

The Foreign Minister said that details of the aircraft acquisition deal will be established first by the Ministry of National Defence, and will next be discussed within Romania's Supreme Council for National Defence (CSAT). In March 2010 the Supreme Council for National Defence approved a proposal by the Ministry of Defence to acquire 24 used F-16 aircraft.