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February 24, 2014

News Briefs February 24, 2014

Taliban says it suspends talks on held U.S. soldier

Afghanistans Taliban said Feb. 23 they had suspended ìmediationî with the United States to exchange captive Sgt. Bowe Berdahl for five senior Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, halting ñ at least temporarily ñ what was considered the best chance yet of securing the 27-year-old soldiers freedom since his capture in 2009.

In a terse Pashto language statement emailed to The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid blamed the ìcurrent complex political situation in the countryî for the suspension.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the talks said the cause of the suspension was not the result of any issue between the United States and the Taliban. He declined to elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as proof of life demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex political situation in the country, the statement read. The process will remain suspended without the exchange of prisoners until our decision to resume.

The U.S. State Department has refused to acknowledge the negotiations, but the U.S. official previously told the AP that indirect talks were underway. AP

Black Hawk helicopter maker to eliminate 600 jobs

The Connecticut company that manufactures Black Hawk helicopters says it is eliminating 600 jobs as it feels the impact of reduced military spending due to budget cuts and a scaled-back U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Sikorksy Aircraft Corp. says most of the jobs are in Connecticut. The Stratford, Conn., based subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. said Feb. 21 the cuts will take place over the next several weeks.

Spokesman Paul Jackson says the reductions are necessary to protect the companys competitiveness.

The company has about 8,200 employees in Connecticut and a total of 16,500 around the world.

Jackson said the cuts will be split equally between salaried and hourly positions. AP

Satellite reaches California for next Sea Launch

A communications satellite built for France-based Eutelsat has arrived in California to be prepared for liftoff from Sea Launch AGs oceangoing rocket pad.

The companies said Feb. 19 that the Eutelsat 3B spacecraft built by Airbus Defense and Space was flown from Toulouse, France, to Long Beach Airport. IT was then transported to a payload processing facility at the home port of Sea Launch systems two vessels.

The self-propelled launch platform and command ship will sail form Long Beach to the equatorial Pacific for a mid-April liftoff.

The satellite is designed to last more than 15 years in orbit.

Sea Launch, now based in Switzerland, has been lofting heavy satellites into orbit since 1999. AP

Saudi Arabia, BAE agree new Typhoon jet price

Europes largest defense contractor BAE Systems announced Feb. 19 that the governments of the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia have agreed on new pricing for the sale of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

The multi-billion dollar deal, signed in 2007 and widely reported by international media to stand at around $7.5 billion, would be a huge boost of confidence and support for the Eurofighter Typhoon jets outside of Europe. BAE builds the jet with European aerospace group Airbus and Italian defense contractor Finmeccanica.

The Eurofighter, which has only been used in battle once during NATOs air campaign agsint Moammar Gadhafi in Libyas 2011 civil ear, is aggressively trying to woo buyers away from the French Rafale and American F-35s and F-16s.

BAE Systems failed to strike a deal with the United Arab Emirates, whose officials pulled out of talks to buy 60 Typhoon jets despite a visit to the Middle East by British Prime Minister David Cameron late last year to push for the sale.

The Middle East market remains largely dominated by Lockheed Martins fighter jets. While the Typhoon deal marks an important sale for BAE Systems, it is modest compared with Saudi Arabias $60 billion deal in 2011 that included more than 80 F-15 fighter jets, missiles, radar warning systems and other equipment from the United States. AP




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