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Kuwait defense minister seeks to win support for buildup

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, July 17, 2003

ABU DHABI Kuwait's new government plans to win the confidence of parliament and the public for the sheikdom's defense and military policy.

The new government of Prime Minister Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah has launched a campaign to stress the need for a strong military and security force for Kuwait. After its first meeting on Tuesday, Sabah visited the National Guard in a discussion that focused on the need for public support of the military and security services as well as government plans for the armed forces.

"The discussion concerned the demands for the future phase and the crossroad for the new government," Kuwaiti sources told the Al Rai Al Aam daily on Wednesday.

The Defense Ministry wants to complete plans that involve the military and security forces. They include the future presence of U.S. troops in the sheikdom, the imposition of a draft, the civilianization of the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry and the completion of negotiations for new weapons platforms.

Kuwaiti Defense Minister Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah has been wooing the new 50-member parliament elected earlier this month in an attempt to ensure the continuity of defense programs. The parliament is dominated by Islamic deputies who have opposed Kuwait's large-scale weapons purchases from the United States as well as the U.S. military presence in the sheikdom.

Mubarak, who was reappointed defense minister, stressed that he would make Kuwait's defense a priority in cooperation with parliament. He said his ministry plans to increase the sheikdom's military capabilities in wake of the fall of what he termed hostile regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"The defense minister's message is that the fall of the Sadam regime has not affected any military programs," a Kuwaiti military source said. "The minister does not yet see the elimination of any significant threats to Kuwait. There is no room for complacency."

In meetings with officials and military commanders, Mubarak said the war in Iraq demonstrated Kuwait's ability to defend the nation. Kuwaiti PAC-2 Guided Enhancement Missile batteries were said to have intercepted at least seven Iraqi short-range missiles.

Mubarak, who met the commanders of all of the military services, said the Kuwaiti military is a vital element in plans to develop the sheikdom. The statement was believed to have been issued a response to critics of high Kuwaiti defense spending.

Kuwaiti defense sources said the sheikdom has relayed to such allies as Britain and the United States that the new Cabinet and parliament would not change Kuwait's defense policies. The sheikdom has ordered AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters and discussed the procurement of the F/A-18 fighter-jet.

Mubarak has also reviewed a British-U.S. proposal for a command, control, communications, computer and intelligence [C4I] system in an estimated $1.2 billion project. The ministry has also decided to maintain the delivery of French naval boats amid accusations of bribery.

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