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Defense Ministry to Hold Tender for Warship

The Defense Ministry will invite bids from foreign and domestic shipbuilders to build a helicopter carrier, broadening its options amid lengthy talks with France that have not produced a deal, Kommersant reported Thursday.

Kommersant quoted the president of state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation, Roman Trofimenko, as saying the Defense Ministry plans to hold an open international tender for the helicopter carrier.

Defense Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Kommersant cited an unidentified ministry source as saying a tender would be held, but the paper said the Defense Ministry would prefer to buy the ship abroad.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in May that Russia wanted to buy four ships.

Russia has been in talks to buy a Mistral-class warship from France, and President Nicolas Sarkozy told shipyard workers last month that France would build two of the ships for Russia. A shipyard executive said at the time that the deal was expected to be sealed by the end of the year.

"France sees no reason to be worried about the current developments, and negotiations are progressing normally in an excellent manner," an Elysee source said Thursday.

Serdyukov said in May that Moscow was in preliminary discussions with Spain and the Netherlands as well.

Russian shipbuilders have also expressed interest. United Shipbuilding Corporation spokesman Igor Ryabov said Thursday that three Russian shipbuilders might make bids, two of them in conjunction with foreign partners.

Ryabov said a joint venture between Russia and France would be the best way to build the warship for Russia.

"For Russian companies, construction of a modern helicopter carrier is important first of all as a process of learning," Interfax quoted him as saying. "Our shipbuilders will be learning, filling the gap in some technologies."

Ryabov said the tender would be announced in September, RIA-Novosti reported.

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