France signs weapons mega-deal with UAE

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France announced multibil-lion-euro deals Friday to sell fighter planes and combat helicopters to the United Arab Emirates, aiming to boost mili-tary cooperation with its top ally in the Persian Gulf amid their shared concerns about Iran.

The UAE is buying 80 up-graded Rafale warplanes in a deal the French Defense Min-istry said is worth 16 billion euros ($18 billion) and repre-sents the largest-ever French weapons contract for export. It also announced a deal with the UAE to sell 12 Airbus-built combat helicopters.

They offer a shot in the arm for France’s defense industry after the collapse of a $66 bil-lion contract for Australia to but 12 French submarines that ultimately went to the U.S. But the deals faced criti-cism by human rights groups concerned about the UAE’s involvement in the yearslong war in Yemen.

The UAE contracts were signed as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country on the first stop of a two-day visit to the Persian Gulf.

France and Gulf coun-tries have long been con-cerned by Iran’s nuclear ambi-tions and influence across the region, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

France has particularly deep ties to the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. France has a naval base there and French warplanes and per-sonnel also are stationed in a major facility outside the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi. —Agencies

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