July 4, 2008 / 3:54 PM / 11 years ago

Bulgaria to buy 2 French corvettes, halving order

PARIS, July 4 (Reuters) - Bulgaria has provisionally agreed with France to buy two Gowind corvettes, halving an earlier commitment for four vessels that was hit by funding problems, an aide to French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday.

Bulgaria and France set up a working group in October to try to reach a final deal by end-2007 for four of the advanced stealth vessels that would have been worth 950 million euros ($1.49 billion).

There were reports soon afterwards that Bulgaria had decided on a cheaper solution due to budget difficulties.

The French aide said on Friday that Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev had confirmed a provisional order for two vessels, one of which would be built in Bulgaria at the Black Sea port of Varna.

Detailed talks will start on Monday in Sofia, Stanishev told reporters after meeting Sarkozy in Paris to sign a strategic partnership agreement between the two European Union states.

The Gowind class of light, manoeuvrable corvettes is designed for anti-surface warfare and maritime security and built by French state shipyard DCNS, which is 25-percent owned by defence electronics firm Thales (TCFP.PA). (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Tim Hepher; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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