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Thursday February 8, 2001

Saudi Arabia orders 16 Italian helicopters-paper

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia ( Reuters ) - Saudi Arabia has ordered 16 Italian military helicopters in a deal worth 562 million riyals ($150 million), a Saudi newspaper reported on Thursday.

Arab News daily quoted the Italian ambassador in Riyadh, Torquato Cardilli, as saying the agreement had been signed with Italy's Agusta, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA , and that the first helicopters would arrive in the oil-rich kingdom in June.

``Delivery of the aircraft will start in June this year and two helicopters will be delivered every month,'' he said.

Cardilli, speaking before a visit on Saturday by Italian Chief of Staff General Mario Arpino, said Agusta would produce eight helicopters and the rest would be manufactured by Bell Helicopter unit of Textron Inc of the United States.

He told Arab News the helicopters would be used mainly for transporting troops and self- defence, but he gave no details on the type of aircraft or on the Agusta-Bell relationship.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer and exporter, is among the world's biggest spenders on arms, most of which it purchases from the United States, Britain and France.


Helis.com note: The helicopters probably would be AB412 or B427


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