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Wed 23 Feb 2011 10:55 PM

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Dassault optimistic on sealing $10bn UAE jets deal

Talks ongoing as French aviation giant aims to secure contract for 60 Rafale fighter jets

Dassault optimistic on sealing $10bn UAE jets deal
The UAE has announced defence deals worth $2.2bn at Abu Dhabi defence show IDEX (Getty Images)

France's Dassault Aviation is confident of winning an estimated $10bn deal to sell 60 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE as talks continue, company officials said.

The UAE has been in talks with Dassault since 2008 to replace its fleet of Mirage 2000-9 jets, purchased in 1983 from the French aircraft maker.

"We are still discussing, we are confident it will happen," Eric Trappier, international executive vice-president, said Wednesday, declining to elaborate.

Some 1,000 firms are participating at the Middle East's largest defence expo, the International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX), in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi amid rising unrest across the Arab world.

The UAE is working on the deal, said IDEX spokesman Obeid al Ketbi, adding technical committees were studying it. He declined to give a timeframe for the deal to be announced.

Word the Rafale talks could be in trouble surfaced in September when specialist publication Defence News reported Abu Dhabi had expressed interest in the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.

A Boeing official denied it received requests for technical information on the Super Hornets.

"If the UAE did ask for technical information, they would have asked the US government," Paul Oliver, Boeing's vice-president for Middle East and north Africa, told a media briefing at IDEX.

"We have not had any requests from the US government," he said.

IDEX spokesman Ketbi said he had no knowledge if the Super Hornet was in competition with the French fighter jet. Dassault's Trappier also said he was unaware if the Super Hornet was in the race.

So far, the UAE has announced defence deals worth $2.2bn at the expo, which ends on Thursday.

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