UPDATE 1-Britain hopes for talks with French, Germans on EADS/BAE

(Adds quotes from German defence minister, NATO chief)

BRUSSELS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - British Defence Secretary PhilipHammond said on Tuesday he hoped to meet his French, German andU.S. counterparts to discuss the proposed merger of aerospacegroups EADS and BAE Systems , a day before thedeal's deadline.

The plan to create a European defence and aerospace giantout of the two companies rest on a knife edge because ofdisagreements between the governments involved and criticismfrom private investors.

A deadline set by London's stock market comes up onWednesday.

"We always knew that there was a crunch point this Wednesdayand the company has to decide today whether it's going to askthe stock exchange for an extension of time or not," Hammondtold reporters as he arrived for a meeting of NATO defenceministers in Brussels.

"I'm hoping to meet my German, French and indeed my Americancounterparts during the course of this meeting to talk aboutthis subject," he said.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere appeared tosignal there was no movement in the talks when he was askedabout the merger on arrival at the two-day NATO meeting.

"This topic is not on our agenda and in my opinion there isnothing new to add on the negotiations" at NATO, he said.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian plans a bilateralmeeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Brusselslater on Tuesday, according to diplomatic sources, but it wasunknown if the merger plan would be on the agenda.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen declinedcomment on the planned merger but threw his support in generalbehind a restructuring of Europe's defence industries.

"I consider such a merger a commercial decision and it's forshareholders and involved governments to figure that out. It'stheir decision," he told reporters.

"But let me stress that in general I'm in favour ofrestructuring European defence industries with a view to makingthem more competitive and more effective," he said.

A disagreement over whether Paris could increase itsshareholding in a combined BAE-EADS in future is the latestobstacle to the merger. Berlin's desire for a more favourabledeal is another possible hitch.

Hammond has said he opposes France, which owns 15 percent ofEADS, lifting its stake in the merged group beyond a dilutedlevel of 9 percent.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft, Claire Davenport. Editing bySebastian Moffett.)

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