Romania aims to buy Abrams tanks, senior army official says

BUCHAREST, March 7 (Reuters) - Romania aims to buy Abrams tanks made by General Dynamics (GD.N), a defence minister official in charge of military public procurement was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The European Union and NATO state has raised defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product this year from 2%, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The country, which shares a 650-km (400 mile) border with Ukraine, is host to a U.S. ballistic missile defense system and, as of last year, has a permanent alliance battlegroup stationed on its territory.

"We are in the process of sending our (ministry) request for preliminary approval to acquire a batallion of Abrams tanks," lieutenant general Teodor Incicas was quoted saying by defence ministry publication Observatorul Militar. Incicas heads the army's general weapons division.

Incicas said the acquisition, once approved, will be done through a government to government deal. The timeline for the purchase was unclear.

Countries close to Russia like Poland, Finland and Germany are striking deals to build U.S. weapons in Europe, negotiating new deals and looking to speed up existing contracts.

In December, Romania's defence ministry signed a deal to acquire seven Watchkeeper X unmanned aircraft systems from Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems (ESLT.TA) for roughly 1.89 billion lei ($410.19 million).

Romania aims to overhaul its state defence industry by investing in new technologies to boost output and exports in the region, its economy minister said in December.

($1 = 4.6076 lei)

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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