France close to Qatar military, transport contracts: presidential source

PARIS (Reuters) - France is close to finalizing major military and transport contracts during a visit by Emmanuel Macron to Qatar on Thursday, a French presidential source said.

Qatar has an option to buy 12 more Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets after buying 24 planes in 2015 for about 6 billion euros ($7.11 billion) and officials have said that the deal could be concluded this week.

The two sides are also in talks for sale of 300 VBCI armored vehicles from French firm Nexter and a contract worth some 3 billion euros to manage the Doha metro for 20 years.

“Discussions are ongoing,” a French presidential source told reporters on Monday ahead of the visit. “You spoke about several dossiers for which the point of maturity is close, but I prefer to remain a little bit prudent and wait until Thursday.”

Paris has close commercial and political ties with Qatar and has pushed further business interests in the country as well as encourage investment into France, where the gas-rich Gulf state already has assets of about $10 billion.

It has also sought to play a role as a go-between in a row, which began in early June when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut political and trade ties with Qatar.

Since then Qatar has sought to strengthen its military, including signing military equipment deals with the United States, Russia and Britain.

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Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky