*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) PARIS, France - September 7, 2009: Brazil is making progress in talks with France on the possible purchase of Rafale fighter jets, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Sunday, hours ahead of a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. (Image: Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engined delta-wing highly agile multi-role 4.5th-generation jet fighter aircraft) Lula said discussions were very advanced, but he stopped short of saying that a decision would be announced during Sarkozy's visit. "Discussions with President Sarkozy are progressing rapidly. We are on the right path and we have a relationship of trust," Lula said in an interview with three French media, TV5 Monde, RFI radio and Le Monde newspaper. Brazil plans to buy 36 fighter jets to partially renew its air force. The contract is worth somewhere in the region of 4 billion euros ($5.7 billion), French sources have said. The providers being considered are the French Rafale, which is made by Dassault Aviation, the American F18 made by Boeing and the Gripen, built by Sweden's Saab. The stakes are high for France, which has been trying to export the Rafale for years without success. "Everyone knows that one of Brazil's requirements is technology transfer. We cannot buy a fighter jet if we don't have the technology," Lula said during his interview with the French media. He previously had said that in terms of technology transfer, the French were well placed. However, Lula would not be drawn into saying whether Sarkozy could expect to clinch a deal during his time in Brazil. "I don't know. It's a very sensitive subject. An agreement on such a scale involves lots of money, technology transfer, other competitors. All I can say is that we are at a crucial moment in the conversation with France," he said. The Rafale, a project initiated in 1988, has been operational in the French air force since 2006. However, it has yet to find any foreign buyers, much to Sarkozy's frustration. The French leader is in talks with the United Arab Emirates over the possible sale of 60 of the planes. During a visit to Brazil in December last year, Sarkozy signed defence contracts with Lula worth billions of euros. These included the sale of four conventional submarines and 50 military transport helicopters.
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