, PARIS, Jan 4, 2011 – France is confident of scooping a major contract to sell Rafale fighter planes to Brazil under its new president Dilma Rousseff, the French defence minister said on Tuesday.
The minister, Alain Juppe, said he met Brazilian officials when he attended the investiture of Rousseff on Saturday when she took over the presidency from Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
"A decision should be taken in the coming weeks," Juppe said. "I think we can be confident but my strategy is never to announce things before they have been decided."
France\’s Rafale jet, made by Dassault is competing with the F/A-18 Super Hornet by US company Boeing and a Gripen NG to be built by Saab of Sweden for the multi-billion-dollar contract to modernise Brazil\’s air force.
Lula last year announced that he had begun negotiations with France to buy the Rafale, but quickly backtracked under pressure from the Brazilian air force and the other two bidders.
When no deal was made before Lula left office, some analysts saw it as a sign the project could be scrapped.
According to Brazilian media, the purchase of 36 new fighters would cost between six billion and eight billion dollars (up to six billion euros).