U.S. to upgrade military ties with Kuwait

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The United States has announced plans to upgrade defense relations with Kuwait.

U.S. officials said the Bush adminstration plans to designate Kuwait as a non-NATO major ally. This will allow Kuwait access to additional military technology and intelligence.

"We will be moving toward designation of Kuwait as a non-NATO major ally and will begin discussions that will lead to a free trade agreement, beginning with an understanding on certain economic and trade issues on the road towards a free trade agreement," Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference on Monday during his visit to the sheikdom.

So far, the United States has designated three Arab countries as major non-NATO allies, Middle East Newsline reported. They are Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan.

Officials said the proposed designation of Kuwait as a non-NATO major ally reflects the sheikdom's cooperation in Iraq as well as in the war against Al Qaida. They said the designation would pave the way for a strategic dialogue between Kuwait City and Washington.

On Tuesday, Kuwait and the United States continued military cooperation talks. Kuwaiti Defense Minister Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah met a delegation from the U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, and officials said the talks included a review of military threats to the Gulf region.

Officials said the increased U.S. military cooperation with Kuwait is expected to accelerate arms sales to the sheikdom. The officials said Kuwait has revived several major procurement projects, including C4I and air- and sea-based missiles. Companies from the European Union, Russia and the United States have sought to enter either of the projects.

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