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Defence Minister Denies Knowledge of F16 Deal


Defence Minister Mark Burton says he is not aware of any moves by the United States to offer better terms for the F16 fighter planes.

The United States offered the 28 F16 fighter to New Zealand in a NZ$128 million leasing deal with the National Government, which Labour is considering scrapping.

ACT Party Leader Richard Prebble said in Parliament last night a source told him the United States Government was considering further reducing the price of the F16's leases.

He said the source told him the US was also considering a finance package to enable the Philippines government to buy New Zealand’s ailing Skyhawk aircraft fleet.

However Defence Minister Mark Burton says he has not heard any news of the deal-sweetener through official channels

He says the Government would not consider any hearsay information from Mr Prebble when considering whether to purchase the F16 fighters.

Both National and ACT have pressured the Labour Government to accept the F16 lease offer saying buying the aircraft was essential to New Zealands defence relationships with Australia and the United States.

Former Defence Minister Max Bradford also called it "the deal of the century".

Labour Ministers are studying a report by defence consultant Derek Quigley before they decide to buy the aircraft.

The United States is keen to sell the aircraft which are currently sitting unused in a Calfornian desert.

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