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French arms exports to top 7b euros in 2014: minister

French arms exports are expected to top 7 billion euros this year after a rebound in global orders, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

PARIS: French arms exports are expected to top 7 billion euros (US$9.5 billion) this year after a rebound in global orders, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday.

International weapons contracts rose by 42 per cent compared to the previous year in 2013 to 6.7 billion euros, he told the opening of a weapons show near Paris, adding that he expects this year to be "even better".

Much of the turnaround is down to a rebound in exports to the Middle East, which make up 40 per cent of buyers, including the 500 million euro renovation of the Saudi fleet.

Expansion in Asia and Latin America, including the 300 million euro sale of communications satellites to Brazil, also helped push French arms exports to above their 2011 level after a lacklustre performance in 2012.

France is the world's fourth-largest arms exporter, counting among its manufacturers giants such as Airbus Group.

Last year they accounted for 7.2 per cent of the global weapons trade, behind the United States with 52 per cent, Britain's 13.4 per cent and Russia's 8.4 per cent.

Le Drian also confirmed the imminent launch of Project Scorpio tank renewal programme for "a little more than five billion" euros over ten years.

"This is the building of the army of tomorrow, with more than 2,500 armoured vehicles interconnected by high-performance information systems in various ways," he said.

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