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British defence minister in Saudi talks

A file photo.

RIYADH (AFP): British defence minister Philip Hammond held talks in Riyadh on Tuesday, just weeks after BAE Systems announced an agreement with Saudi authorities on the spiralling costs of a multi-billion-dollar fighter deal.

Saudi state media gave very few details of what was discussed in Hammond's meetings with his counterpart Crown Prince Salman and National Guard Minister Prince Mitab bin Abdullah.

His talks with Salman focused on "cooperation between their friendly states and means of developing and strengthening it," the official SPA news agency said.

British contractor BAE Systems announced on February 20 that it had reached a new pricing agreement with Saudi Arabia for the deal it struck in 2007 to supply 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

BAE gave no figures for the new value of the deal, which was originally put at 4.5 billion pounds. The costs had risen sharply with less than half of the planes delivered.

The February agreement was a boost for BAE after the United Arab Emirates pulled out of talks with the British government to purchase Typhoon Eurofighters last December.

BAE, hit by government cutbacks to military spending, is looking to push on after the collapse in late 2012 of a planned mega-merger with European aerospace giant EADS, now renamed Airbus Group.

BAE builds the Typhoon in cooperation with Airbus Group and Italian defence firm Finmeccanica.

A previous arms deal between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia was mired in allegations of corruption.

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