EADS Demands A400M Financing Deadline

France on Monday brushed off defense contractor EADS' demand for a decision on financing for the A400M military transport plane this week.

PARIS (AP) -- France on Monday brushed off defense contractor EADS' demand for a decision on financing for the troubled A400M military transport plane by the end of the week, saying that setting a deadline is not helpful for discussions.

"I have learned never to fix a timetable," said Laurent Collet-Billon, head of the France's arms procurement agency in a press conference.

EADS CEO Louis Gallois on Saturday said Airbus' parent company and its shareholders Daimler AG and Lagardere SA need a decision this week so they can book EADS' share of the cost overruns in their 2009 financial results, rather than carrying over uncertainty into the first quarter. EADS is due to report on March 9.

Collet-Billon said the seven nations have agreed to commit an extra euro2 billion ($2.74 billion) in funding, and France is proposing that governments make available an extra euro1.5 billion in reimbursable loans.

He blamed "severe shortcomings" in EADS' management of the program, which is almost four years behind schedule.

EADS has reduced its demand for extra funding to euro4.5 billion — but the government proposal still falls euro1 billion short.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said last week that there is "no agreement on figures, nor on the breakdown."

An official from the German defense ministry, who declined to be named in line with government policy, said Monday that no date has been set for a new round of talks, but that a meeting this week seems likely.

A spokesman for Britain's defense ministry said negotiations continue, and Britain continues to support the program "but not at any cost."

The four-engine turboprop military plane had its maiden flight in December. The price tag for the 180 planes ordered was fixed at almost euro20 billion in the initial contract in 2003. Germany is the biggest costumer with 60 aircraft ordered, and France wants 50.

The A400M is seen as occupying an important niche market between the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, which carries only half the payload, and Boeing's C-17 Globemaster III, which is larger, costlier, and less tactically versatile.

Associated Press writers Juergen Baetz in Berlin and Bob Barr in London contributed to this report.

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