Sarkozy closely following Air France order: letter

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is "closely following" talks between Air France and Airbus over a key order for long-haul aircraft which rival Boeing is also interested in, a letter showed Thursday.

In a letter to member of parliament Bernard Carayon, in Sarkozy's own UMP party, the president wrote that he "was closely following the discussions between Airbus and Air France-KLM on upgrading its long-haul fleet".

Carayon, from the Tarn region in southern France, said he was delighted with the president's comments in reply to a petition from some 180 MPs who want Air France to choose the Airbus A350 rather than Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Sarkozy's letter dated July 6, seen by AFP, made no specific recommendation to Airbus, whose main plant is in Toulouse, southern France, but the president vaunted the merits of the A350.

"I am sure that Air France-KLM will of its own accord recognise the qualities of the A350, a plane whose production we have supported with loans," Sarkozy wrote.

"I spare no effort to support Airbus in its commercial dealings and let everyone know around the world the excellence of our industry," he added.

Carayon told AFP that it was "now up to management at Air France to draw the lessons from our collective invitation to them to show good sense (and appreciate) the excellence of European industry, that is to say, to choose Airbus."

Airbus head Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said earlier this month that the huge order would likely be shared between Airbus and Boeing.

© 2011 AFP

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