The UAE air force's $7-billion order for 80 Lockheed Martin Block 60 F-16s could be signed imminently.

Speaking after officially opening Dubai 2000, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister says: "We are still negotiating the deal. We are happy with their equipment, but the sticking point is the budget."

"If we can get past the problem of prices, we will announce it at this airshow."

Sheikh Mohammed met the world's press after an afternoon tour of the new Airport Exhibition Centre, which was purpose-built for the airshow at a cost of $100 million. His first port of call was the static park, where he admired Emirates Airline's newly acquired Boeing 777-300.

When asked about the airshow, he says: "I have had a great day. The airshow is really improving."

"It is well organised, much bigger and definitely better. There are also more companies here, a trend we want to maintain. Our aim is to make it the number one international airshow."

He adds: "I think there will be a lot of deals done at Dubai 2000. If any are done with the UAE, they will be announced later."

Source: Flight Daily News