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Royal Air Maroc deal for MAX jets suspended - source

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Royal Air Maroc deal for MAX jets suspended - source

FILE PHOTO: The CN-ROP Royal Air Maroc Boeing 737 makes its final approach for landing at Toulouse-Blagnac airport

RABAT (Reuters) - A deal for Morocco’s national carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) to purchase two more Boeing <BA.N> 737 MAX jets has been suspended after the fleet was grounded following a crash in Ethiopia, a source from the airline told Reuters on Thursday.

RAM had planned to receive the two 737 MAX aircraft in June, the source said, adding that two other 737 MAX planes already in its fleet had been grounded pending revisions to the aircraft and an investigation into the Ethiopian crash in March.

"We are no longer going to receive the two planes as planned," said the source, who asked not to be identified and did not provide further details.

Royal Air Maroc declined to comment. No comment was immediately available from Boeing.

The U.S. planemaker's top-selling jet was grounded worldwide and deliveries were frozen in March after fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people in five months.

Several airlines have said they might abandon or reduce planned orders for the jet, in some cases citing safety, but so far there have been no cancellations of firm orders. Boeing says the jet is safe but is revising software linked to the crashes.

Airline industry analysts have said some of the requests appear designed to put pressure on Boeing over compensation and may require lengthy negotiations. Many airlines defer orders, but industry sources say aerospace firms do not allow much scope for cancellations.

In July, Saudi Arabian budget airline flyadeal said it would not proceed with a provisional $5.9 billion (4.7 billion pounds) order for 737 MAX aircraft, instead opting for a fleet of Airbus A320 jets.

LOT Polish Airlines in June ruled out cancelling an order for grounded 737 MAX jets but urged the U.S. planemaker to take steps to restore its credibility after the two accidents.

Separately, the source said that RAM is not concerned about its fleet of 737NG planes after inspections that have taken place elsewhere in the world, saying the checks routinely take place on older jets or after a set number of flights.

RAM operates 36 of the 737NG planes. Of these, one has required such an inspection and no problems were found.

Southwest Airlines Co and Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas have grounded a total of 13 Boeing Co 737 NG airplanes after U.S. regulators ordered urgent inspections last week.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, Tim Hepher; Editing by David Goodman and Grant McCool)