BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia might buy, rather than lease, a fleet of Gripen fighter jets from Sweden's Saab or might choose a different supplier, Defense Minister Peter Gajdos said on Wednesday.
The four-party government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, re-elected for a second consecutive term in March, had been in talks with Saab on the lease of Gripens to replace Slovakia's outdated Russian Mig-29 fighter jets.
"The government extended my mandate to negotiate on the lease or purchase ... and also untied my hands to negotiate with other states in order to best use our resources in terms of price and securing Slovakia's defense," Gajdos said.
Saab was still Slovakia's first choice, he said.
Slovakia plans to sign a "Joint Sky" deal this year with the Czech Republic, which has a fleet of leased Saab Gripens, he said. The deal would enable the two countries, both NATO members, to share the cost of maintenance and pilot training.
(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Louise Ireland)