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'Sweetener' deal for F16s - Prebble

'Sweetener' deal for F16s - Prebble

Wednesday 9th Feb 2000

Richard Prebble Media Release -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

ACT Leader Richard Prebble confirmed his statement in Parliament last night that the ACT Party had learned from a Washington insider that the US administration was considering ways to sweeten the F16 fighter aircraft deal.

"Our informant, who has proved reliable in the past and is very familiar with New Zealand advises us that US defence analysts view the relationship[p with New Zealand as being very important," Mr Prebble said.

"Developments in the Pacific, first in Fiji then Bougainville and the Solomons have caused defence analysts to review their assessment that the Pacific is a stable area. As well, events in Indonesia have further influenced US strategic thinking. The view is that the arrangement that the US has with Australia and New Zealand is deemed important, as demonstrated by our actions in East Timor.

"Accordingly the administration is trying to assist the New Zealand government with its claims of budgetary difficulties. The present plan being looked at is to offer a financial package to the Philippines government which would enable them to purchase our ageing Skyhawk fleet, which would make the F16 contract more attractive.

"However the administration is also prepared to look further at the terms of the lease being offered. Mr Bradford last year described the F16 contract as the deal of the century, so this government has the ability to get the deal of the next century.

"My source also confirms that the F16 aircraft, sitting as they are in the desert, are an embarrassment.

"Not many countries are seen as suitable to purchase them, which is an advantage to New Zealand.

"I understand the Australia government, which is very keen for New Zealand to make this purchase as it fits in with their defence arrangements better than Skyhawks, is also making its views known to the US," Mr Prebble said.

ENDS

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