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Bulgaria again delays talks on buying warplanes

Staff Writer |
Bulgaria has again postponed talks to buy eight new Swedish-made Gripen warplanes to replace its aging Soviet-designed MiG-29s, its defense minister said.

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The question of which warplanes Bulgaria should buy has been bounced around successive governments for more than a decade as it seeks to modernize its fleet and improve its compliance with NATO standards. Bulgaria joined the alliance in 2004.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov signaled last month that the talks would soon begin despite his criticism of Bulgaria's previous interim government for announcing them.

Borissov has said the interim government exceeded its mandate and should not have made the call on a deal worth an estimated 1.5 billion levs ($858 million).

Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said the center-right government would now only make a decision on starting the talks after a parliamentary commission concludes its investigation into the action of the interim administration.

"There will be no negotiations for (buying) new aircraft until the parliamentary commission makes a statement," said Karakachanov, who is also a deputy prime minister.

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