Egypt, other countries interested in French Mistral warships-source

viernes 7 de agosto de 2015 13:51 GYT

By Cyril Altmeyer and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS Aug 7 (Reuters) - About 10 countries, including Egypt, are interested in buying two French helicopter carriers whose planned sale to Russia has been cancelled due to the Ukraine crisis, a source familiar with the situation said.

A second source, a French diplomatic source, said that other countries interested include Brazil, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Canada, which could be the most suitable candidate for the ships because they were designed for cold waters.

France, whose navy already operates three of the Mistral helicopter carrier warships, has no use for the two ships and will have to pay Russia nearly 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for cancelling the contract.

The first source also said that Egypt is negotiating the possible exercise of its option to buy two Gowind corvettes. Last year Egypt bought four of the small warships, built by DCNS, which is 64 percent owned by the French state and 35 percent by defence group Thales.

The source added that in the future Egypt might also be interested in buying a second Fremm frigate, also built by DCNS. Egypt acquired a first Fremm as part of a 5.2 billion euro contract for 24 Rafale warplanes earlier this year.

"Egypt's initial need was for two Fremms, but its budgetary constraints currently prevent any negotiation about a second ship," the source said.

The Fremm and the first three Rafales that were delivered to Egypt took part in the opening of the new Suez canal this week, which was attended by French President Francois Hollande.

Hollande and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi have discussed Egypt's possible acquisition of the two Mistral ships on the sidelines of the canal inauguration ceremony, the diplomatic source said.

Hollande said on Thursday that France will have no difficulty in finding a buyer for the carriers. ($1 = 0.9118 euros) (Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)