WASHINGTON, March 30 U.S. President Barack
Obama said on Tuesday bidding on a contract to build aerial
refueling tankers will be free and fair.
"What I said to President Sarkozy is that the process will
be free and fair and that the trust is justified," Obama said
at a news conference with his French counterpart.
"Here the secretary of defense makes procurement decisions.
The president does not meddle in these issues and that's a
long-standing policy," Obama said.
Obama said he had assurances from Robert Gates, the
secretary of defense, that the rebidding process is going to be
completely transparent, open and fair.
Europe's EADS EAD.PA and Northrop (NOC.N) won the
previous tanker contract from the U.S. Air Force in 2008, but
Gates canceled that deal after government auditors faulted the
Air Force's procurement process and uphold a protest by
Sarkozy said EADS would bid if the process is fair and said
he trusted Obama's assurances.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Sandra Maler)