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ATHENS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Greece has extended the deadline for bids to build and operate a new airport on Crete to replace the ageing Heraklion airport to Oct. 27, a senior infrastructure ministry official said on Thursday.
The government initially set a February deadline for bids for the Kasteli project but it has been pushed backed several times due to delays in preparing documents, with the latest deadline set to expire on Friday.
"The (infrastructure) minister decided today to postpone it by a few days, after a request by four interested parties," George Dedes, secretary general for infrastructure, told Reuters.
The project is seen as a test for investors' appetite in a country which is struggling to get its economy back on track after signing up to a third international bailout last year.
Greece has made several attempts since 2009 to attract investors for the build-operate-transfer (BOT) airport project worth an estimated 850 million euros ($955 million), but the country's debt crisis has deterred investors.
The project, which will be funded by private and EU funds, is expected to turn Kasteli into the country's fourth-largest airport by traffic, replacing Heraklion which is struggling to handle nearly 6 million passengers a year.
Greek construction group GEK TERNA will bid for the project, a company official, who declined to be named, told Reuters on Thursday.
Greek media have reported that France's Vinci with Greek contractor Ellaktor, France's Bouygues with J&P Avax, China State Construction Engineering and India's GMR Infrastructure were all among potential bidders.
Dedes said there were at least five interested joint ventures, without disclosing further details.
$1 = 0.8905 euros Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by David Clarke