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Saturday, May 28, 2011

France halts arms sales to Pakistan

BANGALORE: Signalling a temporary freeze on arms sales to Pakistan in a post-Osama bin Laden development, France has said it is discouraging requests for heavy military equipment from Pakistan.

French defence minister Gerard Longuet, who wrapped up a two-day visit to New Delhi on Friday, claimed his country was only supplying interception equipment to Pakistan for use against terrorists.

This equipment is meant to intercept light communication equipment being used by the terrorists.

In the past, France has supplied heavy military equipment to Pakistan, including advanced conventional submarines Augusta 90Bs. Pakistan Air Force also flies Mirage III and V combat jets.

France, Longuet said, would closely watch the dialogue between US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and the Pakistan government over possible support provided to Osama by a section of the establishment in Islamabad.

But this instability has not stopped France from engaging India in a big way.

Longuet said the French government has fully backed its companies competing for Indian arms contracts as New Delhi was a strategic ally. French company Dassault is in the fray for Indian Air Force's combat jet contract.

Longuet also discussed progress of the Scorpene submarine project of the Indian navy. Six French submarines are being built at Mumbai's Mazgaon Dock Limited under this programme.

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