Sarkozy secures arms deal

During their meeting on Friday, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a joint declaration on defense and security which will likely result in Athens purchasing military equipment from France, Sunday’s Kathimerini has learned. Sources said that Sarkozy put on the table the idea of Greece renewing its air force fleet by buying a number of Rafale fighter jets from France. His proposal is said to have met with a positive response from Karamanlis. The planes have been developed and are manufactured by Dassault Aviation. The Rafale is a «fourth-generation fighter» with advanced avionics and weapons systems. Karamanlis suggested that the proposal would be put to the Greek military and that talks would be held with the French Defense Ministry. Sources indicated it is also likely that the Greek Navy will purchase new FREMM multipurpose frigates from France. In the joint declaration, reference is made to the French state-controlled DCNS naval defense company, one of Europe’s leading shipbuilders, and Hellenic Shipyards working together to build warships at Elefsina, west of Athens. Greece also appears to have committed itself to buying two Super Puma helicopters from France as well as the purchase of several Panhard VBL’s, light armored vehicles. The agreement appears to have capped a successful visit to Athens for Sarkozy, whose popularity in Greece was confirmed by a Public Issue poll for Sunday’s Kathimerini. Just over half of Greeks questioned said that they had a positive opinion of Sarkozy and just under half believe that France plays a positive role in world affairs. Closer ties between Athens and Paris had the backing of six in 10 Greeks.