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McCain Says Single Tanker Bid OK

UPDATED: Sarkozy To Press Obama On Tanker

Today's headline in The Hill tells the story: "McCain Endorses Pentagon Process On Tanker Bid As Legitimate."

Sen. John McCain singlehandedly reshaped the tanker competition at least twice, first when he began asking questions about it and again when he wrote a letter that drove the Pentagon to change its competition.

My colleague Roxana Tiron asked McCain for his views and the story says he told her that he "was not worried about Boeing, the only competitor left for the contract."

The most significant quote in Roxana's story has the senator pledging to keep a hawk eye on the tanker contract as Boeing moves forward: “I guarantee you we will monitor it [the contract] very closely. I promise you.”

Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and a host of other French, European Union and German officials warned the U.S. that Northrop's decision could affect trans-Atlantic trade. The view among Europeans is that such a decision could not have been made without government knowledge and, perhaps, intervention. The sting of Northrop having once won the competition and then, in their view, having been forced to withdraw after best value was dropped from the new competition, is sharp.

AP quoted French government spokesman Luc Chatel as saying "that France regrets the decision which 'raises questions about whether competition rules are working properly.'"

Sarkozy will raise the issue with President Barack Obama at a March 30 private dinner, the spokesman told AP. Earlier in the day, the AP said that France's Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche called the decision "an affront for France," against which Paris should "react."

European officials agreed. "It is highly regrettable that a major potential supplier would feel unable to bid for a contract of this type,” European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement, according to Deutche Welle. “The European Commission would be extremely concerned if it were to emerge that the terms of tender were such as to inhibit open competition for the contract.”

The German economics minister was critical as well. "Even in the acquisition of munitions, free competition should not be unilaterally restricted," said Rainer Bruederle.

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