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Egypt buys French fighter jets to shore up 'national security'

FILES) In this file photo taken on October 1, 2016 a Marine Rafale fighter jet returns from a mission to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on the Mediterranean Sea   -  
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Egypt's military has confirmed it ordered 30 Rafale jets from French defence firm Dassault Aviation to shore up "national security".

The order, which follows the 2015 purchase of 24 Rafale jets, will be financed through a 10-year loan, the military said in a statement late Monday.

Investigative site Disclose had reported earlier Monday that the order was part of a secret mega-defence deal worth almost four billion euros ($4.8 billion).

Egypt is the world's third biggest arms importer after Saudi Arabia and India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Its arms purchases grew by 136 percent over the last decade and it has diversified its sourcing beyond the United States, buying military equipment from France, Germany and Russia, the institute said in a report released earlier this year.

Cairo has positioned itself as a bulwark of stability in the region as the conflict in its western neighbour Libya grinds on.

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi and split the country between a UN-supported government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in the country's east.

Each side was backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

Forces loyal to Khalifa Hifter, the military commander controlling eastern and southern parts of Libya, launched an offensive in In April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

The campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-supported government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron enjoy a close relationship built on mutual security interests.

At a joint press conference with Sisi in Paris in December, Macron was criticised for saying: "I will not condition defence and economic cooperation matters on these disagreements (over human rights)."

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