Prime Minister David Cameron hoped to spur British arms sales Monday with a tour of the Gulf and Middle East — but faces a challenge from France's leader, who has also visited the region to tout his country's defense exports.
In visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Cameron will seek to persuade the United Arab Emirates to buy 60 Typhoon fighter jets produced by BAE Systems — in a deal likely to be worth more than 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) — instead of French fighter jets.
The British chief will also visit Saudi Arabia, which is considering adding to its military aircraft fleet and on Sunday hosted French President Francois Hollande for talks. Hollande also visited Lebanon.
Last month, BAE Systems and the Franco-German EADS, the parent of Airbus, called off merger talks in the face of objections from the British, French and German governments. The proposed deal would have created a European defense and aerospace giant to rival Boeing Co.
Cameron was holding talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Prime Minister of the UAE. He was also scheduled to visit Jordan during the three day visit.
"We want to work together with the Gulf countries towards a future that is rich in prosperity, strong in defense and open in its handling and pursuit of political and economic reform," Cameron's Downing Street office said in a statement ahead of the visit.