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DUESSELDORF, Germany, March 17 (Reuters) – Rheinmetall would consider buying a stake in Leonardo’s (LDOF.MI) OTO Melara unit as part of its long-term commitment to the Italian market, Chief Executive Armin Papperger said.

“We want to expand our industrial network, especially in Italy. We already have a good cooperation with OTO Melara there,” Papperger told Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore in an interview published on Wednesday.

“To underline the long-term nature of our commitment, we are also prepared to make a financial commitment by acquiring shares in OTO Melara,” he said.

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Italian defence group Leonardo said in December it had received two expressions of interest in OTO Melara, which produces naval and terrestrial cannons, and Wass, which makes torpedoes, and was waiting for binding offers. read more

But sources told Reuters last week that the plan to find a buyer for the units has been put on hold amid the crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. read more

Papperger also told the paper that Rheinmetall’s Lynx family of infantry fighting vehicles would be suitable for Italy, which wants to renew its army’s fleet.

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Reporting by Anneli Palmen; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Miranda Murray

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