|Paris - Saudi Arabia has agreed to purchase military equipment worth €2.5bn from France, the French business daily La Tribune reported on Tuesday.
The deal, the first of several large prospective arms purchases by the Saudis, involves 30 Fennec and 10 NH-90 Marine helicopters as well as two Airbus A330-200 aerial tankers.
A French source close to the deal, which was sealed during a visit to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday by French defence minister Michele Alliot-Marie, told La Tribune that the Saudis would be signing the contract "between two weeks and three months from now."
In addition, discussions between Paris and Riyadh were continuing on two additional deals. The second transaction is to be concluded in 2007 and would be worth €4bn.
That purchase would concern another A330-220 aerial tanker and an array of helicopters manufactured by the firm Eurocopter: 42 NH-90 land models, 20 Cougar SARs and four Panther naval types.
Sources said that this contract could be signed sometime in the second half of next year.
Finally, negotiations also progressed on the most ambitious deal between the two countries, which would involve the purchase by the Saudies of 48 Rafale fighter-jets, six multi-mission frigates, six to eight submarines and an unspecified number of Leclerc tanks.
La Tribune reported that France and Saudi Arabia have signed protocols to establish executive technical committees that would evaluate Riyadh's needs, the country's industrial capacities and to establish the cost of the transaction.