France says EADS deal reflects better US ties

Europe’s European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) won its share of a huge contract to build aerial tankers for the United States thanks in part to improved French-American ties, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted on Thursday as saying.

EADS unexpectedly won the $35-billion contract for 179 tankers together with its lead partner Northrop Grumman, the US defence company, on Friday, sparking a political backlash in Washington over the defeat for rival Boeing.

“Isn’t it a welcome change when we are reconciled with the Americans?,” Sarkozy told Le Figaro newspaper in an interview.

“Could you imagine for a minute that the contract which EADS has won in such a magnificent way to build aerial tankers could have been signed in the spirit of tension which used to exist between the Americans and French?”

The US Air Force has said the choice of aircraft supplied by EADS subsidiary Airbus was made on purely technical grounds. The award sparked a row over the future of US aerospace jobs.

Paris- and Munich-based EADS failed to win a similar order in 2003 at a time when relations between Washington and Paris were at a low point due to the opposition of Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac to the US-led war in Iraq.

Sarkozy has toughened France’s position on Iran’s nuclear activities in support of Washington, forged close personal ties with US President George Bush and visited the United States twice since his election last May. - Reuters

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