France, Brazil sign defence deal during Sarkozy visit

France and Brazil on Tuesday signed a defence deal, which includes the joint construction of the Latin American country's first nuclear-powered submarine, dpa reported.

The accord was signed by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who paid a brief state visit to Brazil Tuesday.

At a joint press conference Sarkozy described the defence pact as "a historic decision." Lula said the alliance would enable Brazil to have a defence industry that corresponded with the country's importance in the region and the world.

Under the deal, France is to provide Brazil with the technology to build four conventionally-powered submarines. With this, France would overtake Germany as the main supplier of submarines to South America's biggest economic power.

France will help Brazil with its first nuclear-powered submarine, with the two countries sharing the hull construction and Brazil later providing the reactor. It would be operational by 2024. The aim of the submarine purchases was to protect 300 kilometres of Brazil's coastal oil reserves.

The value of the submarine deal was not disclosed, but Brazilian media estimated it to be in the range of 6.5 billion euros (9.1 billion dollars).

Brazil will also buy 50 helicopters from France, to be delivered from 2010 and assembled in Brazil. This deal was valued at 1.9 billion euros (2.6 billion dollars).

While Sarkozy and Lula were holding talks, the French president's high-profile wife Carla Bruni visited a slum area of Rio de Janeiro.

The French couple was to stay on in Brazil over the Christmas period for a private holiday, with press reports speculating that Bruni will be meeting her father, Maurizio Remmert.

Earlier Sarkozy and Lula, speaking at the end of the second EU- Brazil summit, said the European Union and Brazil intend to speak in the future "with one voice" on the international finance crisis.

Sarkozy, current EU president, said their positions were close to one another and would be heard at the next G20 meeting on April 2 in London, when emergency talks continue in the search for a new global financial order.

"Europe and Brazil must speak with one voice to change how the world reacts to such crises," Sarkozy said.

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