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BRASILIA, July 16 (Reuters) - Brazil will soon sign the final contract to finance and purchase fighter jets from Sweden's Saab AB, Brazilian Defense Minister Jacques Wagner said on Wednesday nearly one year after an initial agreement had been struck.
Brazil and Sweden have extended their talks since agreeing on the deal last year as Brazil sought to reduce the financing costs of the $5.4 billion sale of 36 Gripen fighter jets, intended to renew Brazil's aging fighter fleet.
"We're fighting against the economic crisis," Wagner said as he visited Air Force units in the northeastern city of Natal, according to a Defense Ministry statement issued late on Wednesday.
"But we have suffered less than other ministries. The (Armed) Forces are working to cut operating costs, not to discontinue our projects."
The first Gripens should be delivered to Brazil in 2019, according to the first deal signed in 2014. After concluding the purchase process, Saab plans to set up a Brazilian assembly line producing the fighter jets through 2024. (Reporting by Silvio Cascione Editing by W Simon)