United Arab Emirates top arms buyer since 1996

Friday, September 3, 2004

Middle East states have completed among the largest weapons deals over the last three years.

A study by the Congressional Research Service asserted that U.S. allies in the Middle East signed the largest military contracts between 2000 and 2003. The report said they included Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Entitled "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations," the report said the largest deal between 2000 and 2003 amounted to $9.3 billion and was signed by China. The second largest contract was for $6.4 billion by the United Arab Emirates for 80 F-16E/F Block 60 multi-role fighters.

Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were cited as signing the largest military deals between 2000 and 2003. But the report said Middle East procurement over the last few years has subsided.

"The downturn in weapons orders worldwide since 2000 has been notable," the report said. "Were it not for a few large military aircraft orders in 2003, the total for that year would have been substantially lower."

Authored by national defense specialist Richard Grimmett, the annual report did not envision a sharp increase in Middle East arms procurement in wake of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. The report said Gulf Cooperation Council states have not yet indicated whether they will renew arms purchases amid the emerging Iranian threat.

"Numerous developing nations have reduced their weapons purchases primarily due to their lack of sufficient funds to pay for such weaponry," the report said. "Even those prospective arms purchasers in the developing world with significant financial assets have exercised restraint and caution before embarking upon new and costly weapons procurement endeavors."

The UAE was the leading developing world arms buyer from 1996-2003, with purchases totaling $15.7 billion, the report said. China was second with purchases of $13.7 billion, followed by Egypt with $13.6 billion, India with $12.6 billion, Israel with $9.9 billion, Saudi Arabia with $9.4 billion.

The report also indicated an emerging missile trade to the Middle East. From 1996 to 2003, 40 surface-to-surface missiles were delivered to the Middle East by a category of suppliers that included Israel, North Korea and South Africa. U.S. officials said North Korea was the leading missile supplier to the Middle East.

In all, developing nations, including those from the Middle East, purchased $13.7 billion worth of weapons in 2003, or 53.6 percent of the total global trade. The United States signed 45.2 percent of the deals with developing countries in 2003. The figure in 2002 for arms purchases by developing nations was $17.4 billion.

The report said developing nations have decided to focus on platform upgrades rather than on purchasing new systems.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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