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Friday June 2, 2000

Turk PM says helicopter tender award postponed

ANKARA, Turkey ( Reuters ) - Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said on Friday that Turkey had postponed a decision on a massive $4.5 billion tender to build 145 strike helicopters.

Turkey says the high-powered craft, equipped with anti-tank rockets and machine-guns, are needed to face its potentially hostile neighbours in one of the world's most unstable regions.

Three consortia led by Italy's Agusta , Bell Helicopter Textron of the United States and Kamov-A of Russia combined with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) are competing to win the contract.

A decision had been widely expected on Friday.

``Although there has been some progress in the tender it has been decided that negotiations will continue with all three consortia,'' Ecevit told reporters after a meeting of the defence industry executive committee.

Analysts say technological differences between the aircraft are relatively slight and the result of the tender will largely be decided by Turkey's political relations with the country's involved.

Influential U.S. Armenian and Greek lobbies as well as human rights groups are already campaigning against a sale by Bell, saying Turkey's poor human rights record should stop it being supplied with such powerful weaponry.

U.S. officials say strike helicopters, designed to be used against tanks, have little to do with the most frequent rights abuse cases in Turkey, that of police torture of suspects in custody and legal limits on freedom of expression.

  • News: Turkey 's combat helicopter contract