* Lula to choose French Rafale jets for Brazil fleet
* Brazil still seeking lower price for Rafale order
* Air force prefers Swedish plane
By Natuza Nery
BRASILIA, Jan 11 President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva will choose the French-made Rafale jet as Brazil's
next-generation fighter plane but wants to negotiate a lower
price, a cabinet member told Reuters on Monday.
Lula will opt to buy 36 Rafale multi-role aircraft made by
France's Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) despite the Brazilian Air
Force's preference for the Gripen NG made by Sweden's Saab
(SAABb.ST), said the minister, speaking on condition of
"The government doesn't decide under pressure from anybody,
not even the Air Force. The ball is in the court of the
French," said the minister, "If they reduce the price, we'll
close the deal soon."
The Rafale is reported to have the highest price of the
three finalists in the bidding process, which includes the
Boeing Co (BA.N) F-18.
Last week local media reported the Air Force preferred the
Gripen NG because it had a lower purchase and maintenance cost
and would allow for more technology to be transferred to
Lula's government said in September it was entering final
negotiations with France to acquire the Rafale. Brazil has a
strategic defense agreement with France worth billions of
dollars, including the local assembly of helicopters and
Unlike the Rafale, which is a finished product, the Gripen
NG would be developed with Brazilian participation, according
to an Air Force report cited by local newspapers.
The deal, which could initially be worth more than $4
billion, has sparked fierce competition among aircraft
Latin America's largest country is seeking a generous
technology transfer offer and local assembly. The deal could
eventually rise to more than 100 aircraft.
Lula said last year that his final decision on which planes
Brazil buys would be political rather than technical.
(Writing by Raymond Colitt; editing by John Wallace)