Thai PM admits talks with Moscow over fighter jets

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has confirmed that discussions had been held with senior Russian officials on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit about terms and conditions that involved barter trade arrangements for the planned purchase of SU-30 jetfighters, according to Thai newspaper the Nation.

Thaksin Shinawatra said on Monday that Thailand had confirmed with Russian officials that if it was to buy the 12 Russian jet fighters, reportedly with a price tag of 500 million US dollars, it would have to be done as a barter deal involving Thai chicken and agricultural products.

The Moscow Times quoted Alexei Fyodorov, chairman of the board of Irkut, the maker of SU-30 fighters, as saying that the contract for the purchase should be signed by next year.

"We have gone half the distance and expect to sign the contract in the first half of next year," Fyodorov was quoted as saying.

When asked if Thailand was moving away from the United States, the country's traditional supplier of military hardware, Thaksin said: "It is not a good thing to depend on one provider of military equipment."

Thaksin said it was Thailand's right to choose the supplier or maker of military weapons, adding the final decision for the jet fighters should be made by the first quarter of next year, Xinhua reports. V.Y.

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