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Friday, February 13, 2009

France offers Oman Rafle combat planes

MUSCAT, Feb 11 (Reuters)
France is proposing that Oman replaces its ageing fleet of Jaguar ground attack aircraft with Rafale combat planes built by Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), French diplomatic sources said.

The offer was made by visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a meeting and dinner on Tuesday with Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the second stage of a Gulf tour, they said.

Oman wants to replace a fleet of almost 20 Anglo-French Jaguars, in service with the Royal Air Force of Oman for around 30 years.

France is looking for a first export customer for the multi-role Rafale but is expected to face competition in Oman from rivals including the EADS-built (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) Eurofighter.

Sarkozy is on a three-nation visit to Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, countries which tradiitionally buy strategic hardware from the English-speaking world.

"These are by tradition Anglo-Saxon countries -- fine, but France has its own cards to play," Sarkozy told journalists before meeting the Sultan of Oman.

"I am not going to leave here empty-handed. We are sowing seeds and then we will fight to defend our companies and bring back contracts," he said. (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, editing by Dan Lalor)
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