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Greece holds off on warships, planes

The Athens News weekly said budget cuts would take a toll on ongoing talks with France over the purchase of six FREMM frigates.
by Staff Writers
Athens, Greece (UPI) Jun 7, 2010
With the economy in disarray, Greece says it will hold off on major arms purchases in a bid to slim its defense budget by 12.5 percent.

The purchase freeze focuses on a number of warships and planes that Greece had been in the process of considering for its armed forces.

Well in the throes of its worst financial crisis in recent history, Greece has pledged to implement sweeping austerity measures in a bid to rein in runaway finances so as to restore international credibility.

Earlier this year, Athens activated an unprecedented bailout package patched together by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund on condition that it slash its deficit of 13.6 percent -- nearly four times the permitted average -- to less than the 3 percent ceiling by 2012.

Decades of tension with Turkey has had debt-ridden Greece accumulating the European Union's biggest defense budget as a percentage of gross domestic product. It also ranks the second highest within NATO after the United States.

The Athens News weekly said budget cuts would take a toll on ongoing talks with France over the purchase of six FREMM frigates as France, Germany and other nations with strong defense industries are vying to sell Athens a batch of 40 jet fighters that it said it needed.

"Many of the countries that want to sell expensive ships and planes to Greece are the same that granted the country rescue loans this year to keep it from defaulting and threatening the region's euro currency union," the Athens News reported.

In a separate report, the French daily La Croix said Greece's defense cuts hinged on Turkey's willingness to proceed with an easing in military buildup along both sides of the Aegean Sea.

"Today, the more that Europe is integrated, united, there will be less need for major military spending," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told La Croix. "And the more our neighbor Turkey is engaged in a European context, the more we can work together to reduce defense budgets."

The frigates Greece was said to be considering from France would cost nearly $3 billion. But because of the prevailing budget cuts, talks on a final pick or decision have been placed on hold, said Panos Beglitis, the deputy defense minister responsible for military procurement.

In addition, Beglitis told the Athens News, a program eyeing Russian infantry armored fighting vehicles would be "renegotiated from a zero basis."

Greece's military budget for 2010 stands at around $6 billion which accounts for nearly 2.4 percent of the GDP.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have improved in recent years but major stumbling blocks remain over the division of Cyprus and conflicting aerial rights over the Aegean Sea. Turkey also challenges Greece's sovereignty over a host of rocky islets dotting the Aegean's southern flank.

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US military aims to save 100 billion dollars over five years
Washington (AFP) June 4, 2010
The Pentagon announced a major cost-cutting initiative Friday, which it hopes will slash 100 billion dollars from its tight operating costs over the next five years, a senior US defense official said. But with the world's most advanced military waging wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Defense Department said there was no intention of reducing force numbers in the US Army, Navy, or Air Force, ... read more

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