Kuwait defense minister in U.S. for strategic talks

Monday, March 29, 2004

Kuwait and the United States has begun a strategic dialogue that could pave the way for increased arms sales and technology transfers to the sheikdom.

Kuwaiti Defense Minister Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah has arrived in Washington for the first comprehensive strategic talks with the United States in five years. Mubarak was scheduled to meet Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Bush administration officials as part of Kuwait's new status as a non-NATO ally of the United States.

Other Middle East non-NATO allies of the United States include Bahrain, Egypt and Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. The status provides for accelerated delivery of certain military exports, participation in U.S. defense research and development programs, U.S. government loan guarantees to finance weapons exports as well as the stockpiling of U.S. equipment. The ceremony to commemorate Kuwait's new status will be held on Thursday.

In the meantime, Mubarak will be reviewing Kuwaiti's defense and military requirements with senior Pentagon officials in what could pave the way for new arms sales and upgrades. The sheikdom has ordered AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and examined the prospect of procuring a C4I system and upgrading its F/A-18 fighter-jet fleet.

Kuwait has been a leading military and defense client of the United States. In 2002, the sheikdom provided Britain and the United States with facilities to prepare for the war against Iraq in March 2003. Currently, there are about 25,000 U.S. soldiers in Kuwait.

Mubarak said the Kuwaiti-U.S. Supreme Committee for military cooperation headed by Kuwaiti Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ahmad Al Khalid Al Sabah will convene later on Monday to discuss strategic issues.

The panel, preparing for its seventh meeting and the first since 1999, was expected to review both bilateral as well as regional concerns in wake of the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

"We will have a strategic discussion," a senior Kuwaiti official was quoted by the official Kuwait News Agency as saying on Monday. "Each side provides a briefing on how it sees the threat and relays its perception of the strategic situation. It is very useful."

The senior official said the two sides will discuss U.S. military sales to Kuwait, the transfer of U.S. technology and expertise as well as joint military exercises. The official said the commission will examine military cooperation, future projects as well as Kuwait's defense requirements.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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