Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

France offers Mexico police aid

Nicolas Sarkozy and Felipe Calderon
Nicolas Sarkozy and Felipe Calderon discussed the case of Florence Cassez

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to help Mexico in its battle against organised crime during an official visit to the country.

Mr Sarkozy offered his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon help with police training and technology for gathering intelligence.

The two leaders also unveiled plans to build a $550m (397m) Franco-European helicopter factory in Mexico.

Mexico is currently engaged in a battle with feuding drugs cartels.

The gangs are fighting a vicious turf war in the north of the country over lucrative smuggling routes into the US.

Mexico deployed thousands of troops this week to Ciudad Juarez, near the US border, to try to wrest control of the city from the gangs.

Mr Sarkozy praised Mr Calderon's battle against the cartels.

Equipment offered

"I have told President Calderon that we are at his disposal," he said.

"We are ready to receive Mexican equipment in French police laboratories. We are willing to send equipment to Mexico.

"We would like to help Mexico resolve this problem which causes so much distress such as insecurity."

Troops in Ciudad Juarez
Mexico has sent troops to the city of Ciudad Juarez

The French president was accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni as well as French business leaders on his one-day visit.

Among business deals unveiled during the visit was an investment by helicopter maker Eurocopter to build a $550m (397m) assembly plant in Mexico.

Mr Calderon said that the investment would not only be a boost for Mexico's aeronautics industry "but it will also improve equipment conditions for our armed forces".

Mr Sarzoky said he aimed "to bring France and Mexico's economic, cultural, political and diplomatic relations to a level never reached before."

The two leaders also discussed the case of French citizen Florence Cassez who is serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico for her role in a kidnapping gang.

Mr Sarkozy said a team of legal experts from both countries would examine whether she could be repatriated to France.

The French president also addressed the Mexican Senate during his visit.

Analysts say the trip comes as Mexico is seeking to diversify its export destinations, with 80% of its exports currently going to the US.

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