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Finnish president says more information needed for joining exercise in Estonia

HELSINKI, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said on Tuesday his country needs more information about an upcoming United States Air Force training maneuver in Estonia before deciding whether or not to take part in it.

Finland has joined NATO exercises in Estonia and such operations will continue. "But this would be a USAF project. We must know what is expected from us," Niinisto told a press conference in Helsinki.

The presidential press conference was called on short notice around midday in the wake of a U.S. embassy announcement which was in conflict with a statement by Finnish defense minister Carl haglund.

Haglund said on Monday that Finland had not received any invitation to attend the maneuver. On Tuesday, however, U.S. embassy spokesman Jeffrey Reneau told media that an invitation to Finland and Sweden had been sent "weeks ago."

Niinisto said the U.S. invitation had not "reached the Finnish defense ministry."

Finnish media have been reporting the alleged disagreements among politicians whether to join the U.S.-led exercise. At the press conference, Niinisto denied such disagreements and insisted more information are needed if the Finnish air force is to participate in trainings abroad.

The idea of arranging a U.S. training exercise in Estonia stemmed from a visit to the former Soviet Union republic by U.S. president Barack Obama last autumn.

The U.S. Embassy in Finland repeated in its statement that it would be a bilateral U.S.-Estonia operation and neighboring Finland and Sweden had been invited to join. Spokesman Reneau noted that it will be an exercise of technical abilities, not a combat exercise.

Estonia possesses no jet fighter-level air defense, while Finland and Sweden have modern fighters.

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