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French arms exports soar 30 per cent in 2013

French President Francois Hollande (R) and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C) disembark a A400M aircraft at the Le Bourget Air Show Reuters

French arms exports soared 30 per cent in 2013, leaving the country in fourth place in the world weapons exporters' league as it netted orders worth 6.3 billion euros. Continuing the trend, a French boat-builder delivered a warship to the Moroccan navy on Thursday.

Eight big contracts worth more than 200 million euros, compared to three in 2012, helped boost France's armaments exports in 2013.

With orders worth 6.3 billion euros, France follows the US, the United Kingdom and Russia in the world arms export league.

The big orders included modernising the Saudi fleet and selling communications satellites to Brazil.

Smaller orders rose seven per cent.

The Middle East was France's biggest market, with Saudi Arabia in first place and other Gulf monarchies choosing French weapons makers.

South-east Asia, north Africa and Latin America followed.

Electronics are the best selling point and Thales and European missiles builder MBDA are the biggest exporters, often competing for contracts.

This year has begun well with a battle cruiser built by the Fremm joint project with Italy being delivered to Morocco and the boat's builder DCNS saying that several countries, including Brazil and Canada, are interested in the 6,000-tonne frigates, which carry a crew pf 108.

But aerospace gaint Dassault faces a challenge selling its Rafale jet.

Brazil disappointed President Fran├žois Hollande on a visit last month by saying no to the state-of-the-art fighter and negotiations with India have dragged on since 2012 with the danger that they will come to nothing after this year's general election.

Hollande agreed several projects for defence cooperation with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday.