France hopes that Airbus and the seven governments which ordered the A400M military transport plane can agree new financing terms to save the troubled program by the end of the week, the defense minister said Monday.
Herve Morin told journalists that the positions of the seven countries — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey — and Airbus parent company EADS appear to be converging.
"As it stands today we have the perspective in our minds to reach an agreement by the end of the week," he said.
"The discussions are continuing and I think they are going more toward convergence than divergence."
The aircraft is now four years behind schedule and more than 5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) over budget. Morin has said that EADS should shoulder at least as much of the extra burden as the governments.
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was quoted in a parliamentary newsletter last week as saying that the seven nations were willing to contribute a maximum of 2 billion euros ($2.81 billion) in extra funding, less than EADS is asking for.
Thursday will be a crucial day for the military plane, with meetings in Istanbul, Berlin and Paris.
Morin said the seven defense ministers will discuss the plan on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, starting Thursday. Defense officials will also be meeting in Berlin while French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel host a Franco-German summit in Paris.
The European aerospace company had given the governments until the end of January to make a decision, threatening to scrap the program otherwise.
The A400M 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.
The four-engine turboprop 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.
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