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Published: Monday June 30, 2014 MYT 11:05:02 PM
Updated: Monday June 30, 2014 MYT 11:06:19 PM

France's Fabius optimistic on sale of jet fighters to India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday he was confident about the outcome of talks to sell 126 Rafale fighter jets to India in a multi-billion-dollar deal that has been stalled for months.

Fabius is the first of a string of Western politicians due in New Delhi over the next few weeks for talks with the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They are drawn in part by the prospect of defence deals, as the new administration considers opening the industry to foreign investment.

"The discussion is developing in a very positive way and ... we are very confident in the final outcome," Fabius told reporters in the Indian capital.

An Indian defence ministry official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, was more cautious.

"I don't think the deal will be signed very soon. There are many intractable issues to be resolved," he told Reuters, while declining to elaborate.

Modi, in office for just over a month, has vowed to get India's economy out of the doldrums by cutting red tape to revive infrastructure projects - including in the defence industry.

The previous government was widely derided for failing to follow through on promises and for letting major projects become bogged down.

India chose French company Dassault Aviation's Rafale in 2012 over other international jet manufacturers, but disagreements over cost and work-sharing have slowed talks, while India's weak economy has stretched government finances.

No final contract has been signed and rivals including Britain still hold out hope the deal will fall through.

"It is fair that for complex matters it takes some time, but there is a difference between some time and too long," Fabius said, talking about deals in general.

"The notion of efficiency - which is very important if I understand correctly, in the new government approach - is completely shared by us," he added before talks with minister Arun Jaitley, who holds both the finance and defence portfolios.

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mark Trevelyan)

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