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Germany Clears A400 Deal

After months of political wrangling the German parliament’s budget committee finally approved the purchase of Europe’s military transport plane, the Airbus A400M.

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Crucial to the development of Europe's rapid deployment force

Funding for 73 Airbus A400 military transport aircraft has finally won the backing of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s junior coalition partner, the Green Party.

Now that the Greens are finally prepared to support the two-step plan for purchasing the A400M, the project is cleared to go ahead.

Oswald Metzger, the member of Alliance 90/The Greens who had criticised the plan, said he changed his mind after Germany's seven partners in the new Airbus A400M project granted the government an exemption from a penalty clause.

Germany is going to fund the order in two tranches - 5.1 billion euro already approved in the 2002 budget, which is enough for about 40 planes, and 3.5 billion euro covering the remaining 33 planes to be accounted for in the 2003 budget.

The opposition conservatives said on Wednesday they would not oppose the funding plan and did not intend to try and block it in Germany's top court.

"Our concerns have been dealt with," said Dietrich Austermann, a Christian Democrat member of parliament's budget committee.

The Christian Democrats had earlier said the plan to split the funding for the project between the 2002 and 2003 budgets was unconstitutional.

German budget rules state the government cannot sign a binding agreement to buy the planes unless parliament has approved it. The 2003 budget will only be finalised by a new parliament after elections in September.

The plan to build the Airbus A400M is crucial to the development of Europe’s rapid deployment force. It is also an important test of Europe's ability to build a multi-national defence procurement system.

The German government has been struggling for parliamentary approval ever since it signed the order in December.

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