France is in the final stage of negotiations with the United Arab Emirates for the sale of Rafale fighter jets, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said on Monday.
"We are in the final negotiation," Longuet said on LCI television of talks on the UAE acquiring the French-made fighters, adding that the chances were "very strong" that a contract would be signed.
"It's a significant deal for this country," he said. "When you equip an air fleet, it's for 40 years, so the buyer sets his conditions."
Negotiations began in 2008 for the sale of 60 Rafale fighters, the pride of Dassault Aviation used by France's armed forces but yet to be sold abroad.
Abu Dhabi has asked for an improved version fitted with a more powerful engine from Snecma of the Safran group with a thrust of nine tonnes, as well as a higher performing radar system from Thales.
Financing of these improvements "is one of the issues under discussion," a top Dassault Aviation official said in February.
(c) 2011 AFP
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