Croatia favors Israeli offer of F16s for air force

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia should accept Israel's offer to supply its air force with F-16 fighter jets, the former Yugoslav republic's national defense council said on Tuesday.

Croatia asked five countries last year to bid for contracts to supply it with fighter jets: Sweden, Israel, the United States, Greece and South Korea.

The Israeli offer, which according to the media reports is worth some $500 million, includes a squadron of 12 already used F-16s.

"The defense council has accepted that Israel made the best offer and accordingly gave a recommendation to the government," the defense council, comprising top state and defense officials, said in a statement.

Its recommendation must now be formally approved by the government.

The Swedish company Saab had offered a squadron of new Gripen fighters, in a proposal that local media reported was worth some 800 million euros ($992 million).

Croatia joined the NATO alliance in 2009 and the European Union in 2013.

Its air force currently operates a squadron of outdated MIG-21 fighter jets.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Hugh Lawson)