French President Francois Hollande, seeking to strengthen political and business ties with the energy-rich Gulf states, held talks with the ruler of Qatar on Monday at the start of a two-nation trip that includes a visit to neighboring Saudi Arabia. The visit comes as France and other world powers work to finalize a lasting nuclear deal with Iran by the end of June. Saudi Arabia and
its Arab Gulf allies fear a deal and the sanctions relief it would bring could further embolden Iran, their regional rival. The centerpiece of Hollande’s visit to Qatar was the signing of a 6.3 billion euro ($7 billion) deal to sell 24 Rafale fighter jets to the natural gas-rich nation. The agreement, announced Thursday, makes Qatar the third overseas buyer of the delta-winged Rafale, manufactured by France’s Dassault Aviation.