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French accuse Swedes over jet fighter contract

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08:12 CET+01:00
The French military aircraft maker Dassault has accused its Swedish and US competitors for a multi-billion-dollar jet fighter contract in Brazil of playing dirty.

The Brazilian subsidiary of the French company held a hastily called news conference in Brasilia on Thursday to accuse Saab of Sweden and Boeing of the United States of trying to improperly tilt the contest in their favour by claiming Dassault's Rafale jet was too expensive.

"Unfortunately, our competitors have started to make public declarations that don't correspond to reality in a bid to influence the decision," Dassault executive Jean-Marc Merialdo said in the conference broadcast on the Internet.

The Rafale has been seen as the front-runner throughout the process because of France's pledge to transfer all technology related to the high-tech fighter so Brazil can eventually build the planes itself.

That position was reinforced two months ago when the presidents of Brazil and France, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Nicolas Sarkozy, issued a joint statement saying Brazil had initiated negotiations to buy 36 Rafales.

Since then, though, the process has been held up pending delivery to the Brazilian government of an air force technical assessment of the three contenders.

That report is now due to be delivered by the end of the month, according to Dassault.

Lula has said he will make the final decision based on political and strategic considerations rather than purely budgetary ones - again bolstering the bid from France, which enjoys a strategic relationship with Brazil.

Saab and Boeing are far from ready to throw in the towel, however, and have sought to portray their aircraft - the Gripen NG and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, respectively - as the best choice for Brazil.

A Boeing executive in charge of international investment, Michael Coggins, last week accused France of being "intellectually dishonest" by ignoring move in the US Congress to also approve the transfer of "key" technology of the F/A-18 to Brazil.

Dassault was also guilty of "fear marketing" because the Rafale was 40 percent more expensive than the Boeing fighter, Coggins charged in an interview with the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

Dassault's Merialdo would not discuss prices, citing a confidentiality clause in the tender.

But he stated that claims that the Rafale was more expensive by such a margin were "unfounded" and asserted it was "comparable to other aircraft in the same class."

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