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Tue 12 Feb 2008 11:41 AM

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Kuwait Airways to lease five planes

State-owned airline looking to fill gap until it begins buying planes after privatisation, official says.

State-owned Kuwait Airways plans to lease as many as five aircraft by June to expand its fleet until it begins buying new planes after its privatisation programme, a company official said.

Kuwait's parliament approved in January a long-delayed government plan to sell 40% of the loss-making airline to the public and 35% to a long-term investor within two years.

Ahmed Baqer, head of the parliament's financial committee, said in January the airline would not buy new planes until the privatisation was complete.

"We need to have the new [leased] aircraft by the end of May," the official, who declined to be identified, said late on Monday. "We will need two to five new planes," he said, declining to give more details.

The carrier, which lost most of its fleet during Iraq's 1990-1991 occupation of Kuwait, has 17 aircraft, according to its website.

Kuwait Airways cancelled an order worth $3 billion for 19 Airbus and Boeing planes with Kuwait's Aviation Lease and Finance Company (Alafco) in August after MPs blocked the deal. KAC management resigned afterwards. (Reuters)

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