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France inks deal to sell four Mistral warships to Russia


SAINT-NAZAIRE, FRANCE (AFP): France has inked a lucrative agreement to sell four Mistral warships to Moscow, with two to be built in Russia, in a move bitterly opposed by ex-Soviet states in the Baltics.

The deal for the amphibious landing ships will be the first sale to Russia of such technology by a NATO country.

France's NATO allies – in particular Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – have expressed concern about arming Russia with modern Western weaponry.

Leaked diplomatic cables showed that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates also raised Washington's concerns while on a visit to Paris last year.

The deal was announced Wednesday while President Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting the STX naval shipyards in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire where the vessels will be built in partnership with France's state-owned military contractor DCNS.

"The governments of the two countries agree to give their full support to the construction of two (warships) in France and two in Russia," said a joint French-Russian statement released by the French presidency.

Sarkozy told shipworkers in Saint-Nazaire that the deal represented six million hours of work and 1,500 jobs over four years.

A previous deal announced late last month concerned the construction of two Mistrals in Saint-Nazaire and mentioned the possibility of building two more.

The deal unveiled Wednesday did not mention how much technology France would transfer to the Russians to enable them to build the ships, nor did it mention how much the ships were being sold for.

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Mistral  Warship  DCNS  

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