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UPDATE 1-France ready to build Mistral for Russia in 2013

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MOSCOW, Oct 29 (Reuters) - French shipyards are ready to build the first Mistral helicopter carrier for Russia by 2013 if they win a government tender, Russian state news agency RIA reported on Friday, citing one of the ship’s producers.

Russia, which has held negotiations with France since last year over the procurement, is holding a tender for a helicopter carrier as it tries to modernise its aging armed forces.

“The first Mistral ship can be built in the French shipyards of Saint Nazaire in 2013 if the contract is signed,” RIA quoted Jacques Hardelay, president of STX Europe’s operations in France, as saying.

The Mistral is being built by French shipyard companies DCNS, a quarter owned by defence electronics group Thales TCFP.PA, along with shipbuilder STX.

Talks between Russia and France have been complicated by Moscow’s desire to acquire technology along with the ships, as well as questions over where they would be built.

Hardelay was also quoted as saying that two ships could be built in Russian shipyards in 2016 using French technology.

Russia wants to buy four Mistrals on the condition that two are built in Russian shipyards, RIA said.

Russia is trying to modernise its armed forces, burdened by Soviet-era equipment that military leaders said was exposed as outdated in Moscow’s brief 2008 war with neighbouring Georgia.

Moscow’s potential purchase of one or more of the 400 million-500 million euro ($480 million-600 million) carriers has alarmed ex-Soviet Georgia, as well as Baltic Sea nations within NATO.

Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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