France pays spy bill

Europe's ambitions in the spy satellite business spun out of orbit yesterday as Germany pleaded penury and left France footing the bill, writes Imre Karacs.

While pledging their "commitment" to Helios II and Horus, the eyes in the sky which are designed to loosen Europe's dependence on US technology, Germany's involvement will be confined to words of encouragement.

"In order to guarantee the current schedule, France will launch the Helios II project, and Germany will rejoin it as soon as the necessary conditions are met," the two countries proclaimed in a joint statement.

That moment, added the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, would come when the German budget regained its equilibrium.

However, Mr Kohl declined to specify a date for his country's participation.