PARIS — A French Defense Ministry official denied a media report that France is in the final stage of talks for a sale of up to 36 Rafale fighter jets to Qatar.

"Certainly not," the defense official said when asked about a Reuters report that the negotiations with Qatar were in the "final stage." The Reuters report quoted a senior French source.

A second defense official said the idea of final stage could be highly flexible, lasting last days, months or years.

"Qatar has launched a competition," Dassault Aviation chairman Eric Trappier said MondayFeb. 16 in an interview with business daily Les Echos. "We are made much progress. It is now up to them to decide".

A Dassault spokesman declined comment.

Qatar is in an unstable region where the countries are looking to buy combat aircraft offering capabilities in air defense, ground attack and reconnaissance to allow a nation to act autonomously in a coalition, Trappier told Les Echos.

Reuters reported, "France is in the 'final stage' of negotiations to sell up to 36 Rafale warplanes to Qatar, a senior French source involved in the discussions said on Tuesday".

Qatar is reported to be considering an order for 24 Rafales and options for a further 12.

Dassault is also in talks with Malaysia and renewed discussions with the United Arab Emirates on the Rafale, Reuters reported.

On Monday, Dassault, DCNS and MBDA signed Feb. 16 contracts in Cairo respectively for 24 Rafales, a multimission frigate and missiles for Egypt, in a deal worth €5.2 billion (US $5.9 billion). The sale to Egypt is the first export contract for the Rafale and the frigate.