(MENAFN - AFP) A top French defence industry official said on Sunday that talks to sell Rafale jet fighters to the UAE were "progressing well", expressing confidence that a deal could be reached with the Gulf state."We are confident that by the end we will succeed in selling it" to the United Arab Emirates, Christian Mons-Catoni, chairman of the French defence industries council (CIDEF), told reporters on the sideline of the IDEX defence show.He said that given that the first delivery of Mirage jets would be 30 years old in 2015, "there is a great chance the customer (UAE) would like to buy in 2015-16 and we start delivery in 2017-18," he said."We are not in a hurry. Things are progressing well," he said.The defence industry official spoke shortly after lunch talks between the French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Abu Dhabi crown prince and deputy head of UAE armed forces.France is keen to make its first foreign sale of the Rafale, which has struggled to find buyers, to support a project that has cost tens of billions of euros.Development of the Rafale began in the 1980s, with a first prototype built in 1991. The first plane for delivery to the French military rolled off the production line in 1998.Its multi-role capabilities mean it can carry out air-ground or air-sea attacks, reconnaissance, aerial interception or nuclear strike missions.It is made from composite materials which ensure it has a low radar profile.It was designed to replace seven French planes, including the Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter and Super Etendard carrier-borne strike fighter, all manufactured by Dassault.