France and Russia strike Mistral warship deal

File picture of a Mistral high-tech amphibious helicopter carrier assault and command ship at the STX shipyard in Saint Nazaire, western France Each carrier is thought to cost 400-500m euros

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France and Russia have reached a long-awaited agreement on the sale of four French warships to Russia, the two countries' leaders have announced.

The purchase of four Mistral-class helicopter carriers was finalised at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, and will be signed within a fortnight.

Two of the carriers will be built in France, and the other two in Russia.

The Russian military has also long been in need of modernisation, correspondents say.

"We have reached a definitive agreement on the two carriers built in France and the two carriers built in Russia," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a news conference with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr Sarkozy added the deal was evidence the Cold War was far in the past and Russia should be considered a friend.

The carriers are thought to cost between 400m euros and 500m euros each ($525m to $655m).

Negotiations over the purchase began two years ago, but stalled on several occasions over price and technology transfer.

There were also some concerns from France's Nato allies that the ships could be used against Russian neighbours such as Georgia.

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