|MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - France's top government officials expressed Wednesday their interest in buying Russian aircraft, including heavy helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.
"We are interested in heavy helicopters, and also in reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said at a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and officials from the Russian-French Council for Security Cooperation.
She said France and Russia could become effective partners in developing new-generation aircraft.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Doust-Blazy said at the same meeting that France would consider buying Russian amphibious aircraft to create a fleet to combat forest fires.
Russia manufactures multipurpose turbofan Be-200 aircraft that can be used as a firefighter, a cargo plane, a flying ambulance, and a passenger airliner. In its firefighting configuration, it can pick up 12 tons (26,460lb) of water by skimming over the water's surface, making it an effective weapon in extinguishing forest fires, a role in which it is used by Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry.
"We are interested in the Russian planes and we have already started relevant certification procedures," the French minister said.
He also said France "would be happy if Russia bought French Airbus passenger aircraft."
The council was set up by the presidents of the Russian Federation and the French Republic in January 2002 and held its inaugural meeting in Paris in November 2002.
The purpose of the bilateral forum is to strengthen the strategic dialogue between France and Russia by having biannual meetings of the foreign and defense ministers that focus on cooperation in defense industry, nonproliferation and the fight against global terrorism.