Austrian parties agree on parliamentary inquiry into Eurofighter deal

Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz and FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache address a news conference in Vienna, Austria March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz and FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache shake hands after a news conference in Vienna, Austria March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz and FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache address a news conference in Vienna, Austria March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz and FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache arrive for a news conference in Vienna, Austria March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz and FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache address a news conference in Vienna, Austria March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz and FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache address a news conference in Vienna, Austria March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria's Greens and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) have agreed to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry into whether Airbus billed the government for alleged bribes linked to a $2 billion order for fighter jets.

The parties had been in talks on setting up a commission, and a short statement issued by the Greens on Thursday evening said lawmaker Peter Pilz would hold a joint news conference with FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache on Friday at 10:30 a.m. (0930 GMT) to provide details on "the agreement and the road map".

Spokespeople for the Greens and the FPO declined to elaborate on the statement, saying details would only be announced at the news conference.

Austrian prosecutors last week launched a formal criminal investigation against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium over alleged fraud, widening the potential fallout from the 1.96 billion euro ($2.06 billion) jet order more than a decade ago.

Austria is also suing Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium, alleging wilful deception and fraud linked to the order in 2003.

The Defence Ministry said last month that after an investigation it believed Airbus and Eurofighter had misled Austria about the purchase price, deliverability and equipment of the jets, adding that the damages incurred could amount to 1.1 billion euros. Airbus denies the allegations.

A parliamentary inquiry could uncover new details about how the order was negotiated. Strache, the FPO leader, has also said he wants to find out why another parliamentary inquiry, in 2007, was terminated.

The support of 46 members of the lower house, or roughly a quarter of the chamber, is required to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry, according to the parliament's website. Together the FPO and Greens control 62 seats.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Potter)

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