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French weapons exports continue to boom

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French weapons exports continue to boom
France saw a nearly 50 percent jump in its arm sales last year. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP
11:28 CEST+02:00
France's over all economy may be struggling, but its weapons industry continues to see a burst in business. Last year alone France saw a nearly 50 increase in orders, which meant a total of nearly €7 billion in arms deals.

Export orders for French weapons rose by 43 percent last year, according to a new report by the defence minister, who insisted this "exceptional" result showed France was a reliable partner for arms sales.

"In 2013, the orders for arms exports rose 43 percent to €6.87 billion ($8.84 billion)," said the defence ministry. 

"This is a 30-percent increase over the average between 2002 and 2012," added the report, noting that "more than 40,000 jobs are generated by weapons exports.

In total, the French defence industry employs 165,000 people directly or indirectly, with a turnover of €17 billion.

These job are "vitally important" in a country that is "hit by unemployment and threatened with de-industrialisation," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

The report came amid fears that France's reputation as a reliable weapons exporter could be damaged by its decision to freeze the delivery of a Mistral-class warship to Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Paris agreed in 2011 to build and sell the two advanced helicopter assault ships to Russia for a total of €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion), with the first scheduled for delivery in October or November and the second in 2015.

However, under fierce criticism from allies including Britain and the United States, France last week suspended the delivery of the first of the warships "until November."

Le Drian told Le Figaro daily that "France is a partner that is recognised as being reliable," the proof being the rise in arms exports seen last year.

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