France, UAE still in talks on Rafale deal - source

Negotiations over potential sale of 60 jets were backed by former President Sarkozy

Negotiations between France and the United Arab Emirates over the potential sale of 60 Rafale fighter jets to the Gulf country are ongoing and have a chance of succeeding, a French diplomatic source said on Wednesday.

The on-off negotiations have been under way for several years and were given high-profile support by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who mounted a diplomatic campaign to win the first firm export order for the jet.

Talks hit an obstacle in November 2010 when Abu Dhabi publicly criticised Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale, over the price of the multi-role combat jet and sought information on the competing Eurofighter Typhoon.

It has also contacted US company Boeing over the F-18 warplane.

"The matter is still on the table and has a chance of succeeding and it is also linked with other Rafale export deals to other countries," the source said.

Dassault declined to comment.

While the negotiations were reported to have taken off again ahead of the French elections in May, the oil producing nation has appeared less hurried to close a deal as it gauges the diplomatic engagement of new President Francois Hollande.

Hollande travels to Abu Dhabi on January 14-15, where Paris has its only military base in the Middle East, to discuss bilateral relations and rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme.

"If the question is: Will the contract be signed during the president's visit, then the answer is no'," the source said.

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