March 23, 2018 / 6:35 PM / in a month

Mexico leftist softens stance on new $13 bln airport, calls for review

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, March 23 (Reuters) - The leftist front-runner for the Mexican presidency softened his critical stance on Mexico City’s $13 billion new airport on Friday, saying he would carefully review the project, instead of threatening to scrap it entirely.

Speaking in the central city of Guadalajara, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has led polls for months ahead of the July 1 election, stressed the need to examine all aspects of the project, which is already under construction.

“We are going to do a technical review of the project, without scaring anyone,” he said at a construction industry conference in Mexico’s second-biggest city.

“(Hold) a review, with all honesty as to whether it goes ahead or it doesn’t; those are the options,” he added.

Lopez Obrador proposed assembling a team of 15 experts to assess the project - five from the construction industry, five from the government and five from his team.

It was a more conciliatory stance than his remarks on Thursday, when he said his legal team would file injunctions to block the government from awarding more work contracts for the project, which he slammed as “corrupt.”

His pick for communications and transport minister, Javier Jimenez Espriu, told the conference that if elected, Lopez Obrador would suspend work to conduct a financial, environmental and technical review to assess the project’s full impact.

Contracts worth billions of dollars have already been awarded for the airport, which aims to ease the strained capacity of the capital’s present hub and improve connectivity.

The largest existing contract went to a consortium that includes a construction company controlled by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men.

The project is the biggest public works project underway in Mexico. The planned terminal building was designed by British architect Norman Foster and Slim’s son-in-law, Fernando Romero. (Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Dave Graham and Dan Grebler)

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