, BRASILIA, Dec – Brazil\’s defense minister on Wednesday said his government would in early 2010 choose the winner of a multi-billion-dollar contract to build 36 jet fighters.
"The air force has not yet delivered its report, that should come next week" minister Nelson Jobim was quoted by the Folha de Sao Paulo as saying. "I think (the announcement) will come at the beginning of next year."
The contract has prompted fierce competition from French, US, Russian and Swedish firms, as well as exposing rifts between Brazil\’s political and military elites.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced jointly in September that Brazil was negotiating to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France\’s Dassault company.
The deal was estimated to be worth between four and seven billion dollars.
But pressure from Brazil\’s air force — which was still evaluating the Rafale against rival aircraft the F/A-18 Super Hornet by US group Boeing and the NG Gripen by Sweden\’s Saab — forced Lula to delay a definitive announcement.
The Brazilian air force evaluation was due to be handed to the government at the end of November.