* Congress barred final payment for developing system
* U.S., Italy and Germany have spent $4 billion on project
MUNICH Feb 2 Germany and Italy have told the
United States they expect it to fulfil its obligations after the
U.S. Congress blocked funding for a missile defence programme
involving the three countries, Germany said on Saturday.
A defence bill passed by Congress in December prohibited a
final U.S. payment of $400.9 million for development of the
Medium Extended Air and Missile Defense System, known as MEADS,
which is being developed by Lockheed Martin with
partners in Italy and Germany. U.S. lawmakers said Washington
has no plans to produce the system.
The United States, Italy and Germany have spent about $4
billion to develop MEADS over the past decade as a successor to
the Patriot missile defence system.
"I expect the United States to stick to their word and
fulfil the MEADS contract," German Defence Minister Thomas de
Maiziere told reporters at the Munich security conference.
He said that, together with the Italian defence minister, he
had sent a "pretty tough" letter to U.S. authorities driving
this point home.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was doing all he could
to ensure the United States fulfilled its commitments, de
Maiziere said, although he acknowledged that the chances of the
United States fulfilling the agreement had deteriorated.
Congress defied President Barack Obama's administration by
axing funding for the programme in a $633 billion bill
authorising funding for the U.S. military in fiscal year 2013.
The White House raised concerns about the bill before its
approval, warning that a ban on MEADS funding could harm
Washington's broader relationship with its allies.
Lockheed, the Pentagon and officials in Italy and Germany
hope that congressional appropriators, who control the actual
funding for arms programmes, will still allow the Pentagon to
fulfil its final funding obligations for the programme.
Otherwise, they argue, the U.S. government may face
termination fees nearly equal to the money required to finish
the system, and could lose access to the technologies developed
under the international programme.
The Lockheed Martin-led consortium continues to work towards
a fourth quarter 2013 flight test to prove the MEADS missile
defence system can intercept a ballistic missile.