July 23, 2019 / 12:58 PM / a month ago

Bulgaria president vetoes F-16 deal ratification

SOFIA, July 23 (Reuters) - Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on Tuesday vetoed a law on the ratification of a deal to buy eight new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets.

Radev, a former air force commander, said heated disputes in parliament on Friday had shown that the terms of the contract have not been sought and no public consent has been reached.

The $1.26 billion deal would be the country’s biggest military purchase since the fall of Communism three decades ago.

“The commitment of Republic of Bulgaria to obligations, for years to come, without a national consensus and conviction in the mutually acceptable conditions of the treaty, is extremely worrying,” Radev said in a statement.

In 2017, an interim government selected the Gripen built by Sweden’s Saab but the deal was later cancelled and a new procedure was launched a year later.

Radev said it was important that Bulgaria receive “a full package of equipment, accompanying equipment and personnel training.”

“The public needs a definite answer as to whether this is actually achieved by the contracts.”

Parliament could overrule Radev’s veto with a vote of at least 121 votes in the 240-seat assembly.

The Black Sea state, a staunch Washington ally, is looking to replace its ageing Soviet-made MiG-29 aircraft after 2023 and improve its compliance with NATO standards.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Jason Neely

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