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Chile to push for chopper deal with Russia despite U.S. pressure

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Chile plans to continue talks with Russia on the delivery of five Mi-17 multirole helicopters for the Chilean Air Force despite pressure from the United States, a government spokesperson has said.

MEXICO, July 10 (RIA Novosti) - Chile plans to continue talks with Russia on the delivery of five Mi-17 multirole helicopters for the Chilean Air Force despite pressure from the United States, a government spokesperson has said.

Chile originally planned to purchase S-70A Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. but change their mind after Russia state arms exporter Rosoboronexport quoted an estimated $80 million for their Mi-17 V5 craft, which are nearly half the price of the Black Hawks.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke sent a letter to Chilean ambassador Jose Goni on July 1, in which he expressed his "disappointment" with the country's decision.

"It is quite normal. When a decision is made over a purchase of equipment or weaponry there is always a losing side, which becomes disappointed and attempts to defend its point of view," Chilean government official Carolina Toha said.

Chilean Defense Minister Francisco Vidal was earlier quoted as saying that "we should not choose the seller [of weaponry] according to nationality, and decisions on the purchase of weaponry must be based on the results of an open tender."

According to Chilean military officials, the Russian helicopters would be used for search and rescue operations, especially civilian emergencies.

Russian weaponry is popular among many Latin American countries, but Chile has traditionally been a purchaser of western-made equipment.

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