Italian senate rejects motion to block F-35 jet purchase

ROME, July 16 Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:29am EDT

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ROME, July 16 (Reuters) - The Italian senate agreed that any further purchases of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets must be approved by parliament on Tuesday, but rejected a motion to cancel an existing deal with the U.S. defense contractor.

Plans to spend 11.8 billion euros ($15.4 billion) on the jets over 45 years from 2015 have caused bitter debate after years of spending cuts and tax rises to manage Italy's huge public debt, rocking the stability of the fragile left-right coalition government.

The agreement that future spending on the long-running contract be approved by parliament is a non-binding political commitment that may have little weight, as President Giorgio Napolitano this month said such decisions are up to the government, not parliament.

The lower house last month approved the motion as a compromise between the centre-left - which said it would cancel the purchase before a February election - and their centre-right coalition partners who support the deal.

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