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Ogi up-beat about prospects for US fighter jets deal

Defence minister, Ogi, and his US counterpart, William Cohen, held talks at the Pentagon about a Swiss purchase of US fighter jets Keystone

The Swiss President and minister of defence, Adolf Ogi, has said he is confident that Switzerland and the United States will reach a deal to purchase another eight to 11 F/A-18 fighter jets, to add to the Swiss contingent of 35 already in service.

His remarks came on the third and final day of his trip to the US where he met the US defence secretary, William Cohen at the Pentagon. Ogi was received with full military honours at the ceremony.

In an interview with Swiss television, Ogi said “we have reason to be optimistic that it will be possible to buy eight to 11 fighter jets.” Cohen said that he supported the purchase. “We will try to be as accommodating as possible,” he said.

The aircraft in question would not be the very latest prototypes, as used by the US airforce, but older “second-hand” versions. These combat jets would be in line with the type already used by the Swiss airforce.

A spokesman for the Swiss defence ministry said the aircraft on offer to Switzerland were “not outdated”. He stressed that Switzerland could use these fighters for another 20 years.

He added that if Ogi clinched a deal on the planes, they would be upgraded later.

In February the defence ministry stated that it would not expand its existing F/A-18 fleet because “second-hand” fighters were not available at that time.

Although Ogi’s trip to the US capital city did not include a meeting with President Clinton, he said he was not disappointed because no rendez-vous had been scheduled.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR