* Serbia wants to lease 12 new planes from Airbus
* Considers partnership with Etihad
(Adds finance minister comments)
BELGRADE Oct 22 Serbia wants to set up a new
airline from its loss-making JAT Airways and plans to lease 12
new aircraft from EADS's Airbus, in a precursor to a
deal with another carrier.
Finance minister Mladjan Dinkic said on Monday the
government would guarantee the aircraft leases before seeking a
tie-up with an airline such as fast-expanding Etihad, a state-
controlled carrier in the United Arab Emirates.
" The new, better company would receive $140 million worth of
sovereign guarantees..," Dinkic said on the sidelines of a
business forum in Belgrade.
"The old JAT will have to go bankrupt ... It is
unsustainable," he said.
Serbia, struggling with a budget deficit projected at 6.2
percent of gross domestic product, has long wanted to sell JAT,
which last year made a loss of 3.2 billion dinar (27 million
Dinkic said he had discussed the possibility of Etihad
buying a stake in the new Serbian airline and taking over the
lease guarantees with UAE officials during a recent visit to
He said Etihad may also want to build a new cargo terminal
at Belgrade airport.
In March JAT, which operates 14 ageing aircraft, received
government guarantees of 10 million euros ($12.6 million) for a
loan to cover short-term liabilities.
Last month, Serbian officials said Belgrade was negotiating
to sell the airline to AirAsia but the Malaysian
company denied that it was interested.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Erica Billingham)