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French UAE Rafale Deal Back On Track – Report

France could seal a long-awaited deal for Dassault
to sell at least 60 Rafale fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates by
April, turning around what appeared to have been a lost cause, French
newspaper La Tribune reporte.


The French-built jet emerged on
Tuesday as preferred bidder in a $15 billion contest to supply India
with 126 warplanes, lifting hopes for a sale that would boost French
national pride and restore the lustre of its aviation sector.

Citing
unidentified sources, the paper said on its website that President
Nicolas Sarkozy would go to the UAE in March or early April when the
contract is likely to be finalised.

The
deal, potentially worth $10 billion has been in the works since 2008,
but was thrown into doubt in November when the world’s fourth-largest
oil exporter said the proposed terms were “uncompetitive and
unworkable.” It asked for details of a rival aircraft, the Typhoon built
by the Eurofighter consortium.

“Everything has been unlocked (between the UAE and Dassault),” an unidentified source told La Tribune.

A
French government source told Reuters that Paris was waiting to hear
from the Emirates this month. Dassault and the Defence Ministry declined
to comment.

Sarkozy scored a
commercial coup with the announcement this week that years of lobbying
had pushed India close to buying the Rafale and will look to make
political gains ahead of April’s presidential election in which he is
lagging in the polls behind Socialist rival Francois Hollande.
The
UAE has pressed for the aircraft’s engines to be upgraded with extra
thrust and for better radar, industry sources have said.

La
Tribune said there were a few technical details still to be ironed out,
but that they were easy to resolve. It added that as part of the deal
Paris would take back the Emirates’ existing Dassault-made Mirage
fighters.
Speaking after the India announcement, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet hinted there could be more deals ahead.

“Good news are like worries, they fly in squadrons,” he said. “That (deal) is the start of a squadron of good news.”

A
French win in the UAE could also lead to further contracts in the Gulf
Arab region which shares the West’s concerns that Iran is using its
nuclear energy programme to develop weapons, a charge Tehran has denied.
Saudi Arabia inked a deal for U.S. arms worth nearly $60 billion a year
ago.

Qatar, a close French ally,
said last year it wanted to replace its fleet of Mirage fighter jets
during 2012 possibly buying 24 to 36 units. Kuwait in 2010 said it was
also considering buying Rafales to replace its ageing Mirage fleet.

According
to analysts the Gulf countries are looking to have the same aircraft
for inter-operability reasons as well as differentiating themselves from
Gulf power house Saudi Arabia, which uses U.S. Boeing-built F-15s.

 http://in.reuters.com/