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Prague (AFP) Aug 26, 2013
Prague expects to renew its lease on 14 Swedish fighter jets beyond 2015, outgoing Czech prime minister Jiri Rusnok said Monday.
"The negotiations are at an advanced stage. The ball is actually in our court. The Swedes are awaiting our final answer to their recent offer," he told reporters.
The new contract with Stockholm over the supersonic JAS-39 Gripen combat jets could be inked at the end of the year or in early 2014 by the new government, he added.
Snap elections are scheduled for late October.
The Czech army paid nearly 20 billion koruna (780 million euros, $1 billion) to lease the Gripens for a decade starting 2005.
The aircraft include 12 one-seater JAS-39 Cs and two two-seater training JAS-39 Ds.
In July of last year, former Czech prime minister Petr Necas said Stockholm was being "uncooperative" regarding the renewal.
According to press reports, the Swedes had been refusing to lower the lease price.
Necas stepped down in June amid a spy and bribery scandal. The president appointed a new technocratic government led by Rusnok, but that cabinet lost a confidence vote this month.
"The next government will make the final decision on the Gripens, but this (Rusnok) cabinet will do its utmost to facilitate it," Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek said Monday.
He added that the new contract will be a better deal for the Czech Republic and valid for "a period longer than 10 years".
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