April 8, 2014 / 3:35 PM / 5 years ago

Czech combat jets sale will take time: defense minister

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Czech plan to sell 12 subsonic fighter jets to Iraq still requires lengthy negotiations, the country’s defence minister said on Tuesday, in comments designed to dampen local media excitement about the deal.

Aviation company Aero Vodochody said on Monday it had agreed to sell 12 L-159 jets from the Czech army’s stock to Baghdad. It said the accord came with a “number of conditions” and would require the defence ministry’s approval.

The Czech Republic has been trying for years to offload at least some of the military’s 36 surplus planes. A previous attempt to sell 28 of them to Iraq fell through last February.

“I would scale back the fireworks that we have seen today because there is still a relatively long way to go,” Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky told reporters.

U.S. company Draken International placed a binding bid last November to buy 14 of the L-159 planes with an option for 14 more. That deal has also not been completed.

“There are lots of details and I don’t want to speculate (about the sales), but definitely we must conduct negotiations simultaneously (with Iraq and Draken),” said Stropnicky.

Aero Vodochody is owned by Penta Investments, a Czech-Slovak investment group.

The L-159 are light combat planes that are mostly intended for training. The Czechs have so far failed to sell any of them to foreign armed forces.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Gareth Jones

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