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ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia will next week ask five countries to bid for contracts to supply fighter jets as it tries to modernise its military, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

"Next week we will send requests for proposal for buying fighter jets to five countries: Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Greece and Israel," the ministry said in a statement.

Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic, has been a member of NATO since 2009 and of the European Union since 2013. Its air force currently operates a squadron of outdated MIG-21 fighter jets.

"There are three decisive elements we will consider: the price, a state-to-state rather than solely state-to-company deal, and wider economic cooperation prospects between the countries," the statement said.

The ministry hopes the first new jets could become part of the Croatian air force by the end of 2020 if a decision on the acquisition is taken this year.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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