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UPDATE 1-Obama set to supply helicopters to Mexico

 Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:58pm (adds Merida Initiative, Joint Forces Command report) By Jim Wolf WASHINGTON,

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March 13 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama was set on Friday to notify Congress of his first planned overseas arms deal, a Bell helicopter package to help counter drug-runners and other criminals in Mexico. The Obama administration is proposing to send Mexico five Bell 412 EP twin-engine helicopters, valued at $93 million, as part of an anti-drug plan called the Merida Initiative, said a person with direct knowledge who asked not to be named because of the matter's sensitivity. Established last year under former U.S. president George W. Bush, the Merida Initiative aims to help Mexico and Central America combat narcotrafficking, transnational crime and terrorism. Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc (TXT.N) unit, would be prime contractor. The notice of such a potential sale is required by law. It does not mean a deal has been concluded. The U.S. Joint Forces Command said in a recent study that criminal gangs and drug cartels had put Mexico's government, police and judicial infrastructure under "sustained assault." (Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Gunna Dickson)

Published Friday, March 13, 2009 7:29 PM by Zinnia Q.

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