Paris: Qatar could firm up its interest in buying French Rafale fighter planes when its new Emir, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani visits Paris on June 23, the La Tribune financial website reported on Wednesday.

The contract is of vital importance to the Dassault Aviation group, which builds the plane, and to the French government.

Dassault has had difficulty in selling the aircraft abroad, despite successful high-profile combat missions in Libya and Mali.

La Tribune, citing various sources, said that the Emir might announce during his visit that Qatar had opted for the Rafale and would open exclusive talks with Dassault Aviation.

Negotiations would last about a year but the contract would be less complex than one signed with India, a source close to the matter told La Tribune.

France, which expects to slow down the rate of production of the planes owing to a lack of export orders, and Qatar resumed talks on the matter in March.

The Rafale is in competition with the Eurofighter built by British group BAE Systems, Finmeccanica of Italy and by the defence arm of the European conglomerate Airbus Group.

In March, the head of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, said that the company had reached an understanding with India on how to organise construction of the plane in India.

India began exclusive talks with Dassault in January 2012, for the purchase of 126 fighters.