Cyprus to buy spy planes for EU force

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus will buy unmanned spy planes for the European Union rapid reaction force, defense sources said on Wednesday. But the sources would not confirm a news report that a tenders panel endorsed an 11-million-Cypriot pound (19.08-million-euro) contract for two of the unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) from Israel’s Aeronautics Unmanned Systems Ltd. «UAVs will be acquired and will be part of our contribution toward the EU force,» an army source said. «The ministry is not involved in issues related to the special tenders board,» a Defense Ministry spokesman said. Strategically placed at the edge of the volatile Middle East, Cyprus is a front runner for membership in the next European Union enlargement expected in 2004. The embryonic EU force will be a pool of resources rather than a standing army. It is supposed to be deployable by 2003. The Greek Cypriot daily Politis said the tenders commission endorsed the bid from Israel Aeronautics Industries over rivals Sagem of France and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). IAI declined comment on the matter, saying a decision had yet to be made. Israel’s Aeronautics told Reuters it was still in the running along with its partner, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co NV. «Aeronautics with its European ally EADS, is participating in the Cyprus UAV tender,» said Idan Shimon, vice president of marketing at Aeronautics. «Up to date, Aeronautics did not receive any official announcement from Cyprus’s government. Aeronautics and EADS will be honored to cooperate with Cyprus in the UAV program.» A key listening post for former colonial power Britain, Cyprus has two military bases facing the Middle East and Africa. «What is important in the modern world,» he concluded, «is that each person feels that he or she is making a contribution and that everyone is starting from the same point, and not that other people have all run on ahead while we’re just setting out.»