Cohen holds talks on weapon sales, security, with Gulf ally
March 8, 1999
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, on a nine-nation swing through the Gulf and Middle East, went to President Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan's palace on Monday for talks that U.S. officials said would include the sale of $8 billion worth of warplanes and missiles to the wealthy U.S. ally.
The two were expected to discuss potential threats from Iraq and Iran, and military security cooperation.
U.S. officials said the weapons deal was virtually completed, but that talks were still going on about an electronic package to be provided with the planes.
The Arab Emirates, comprising seven small Gulf countries, announced last year that they would buy 80 advanced U.S. F-16 warplanes built by Lockheed Martin Corp for some $6 billion.
The Pentagon said later that the United States would also sell the UAE $2 billion of air-to-air weapons, including advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs) for the planes.
Missile deals planned
Other than Israel, the UAE had previously been the only state in the Gulf and Middle East to receive AMRAAMs. But Cohen during the weekend promised to sell the missiles to both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for use in possible threats from Iraq and Iran.
Cohen is scheduled to hold talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zaid al-Nahayan later on Monday before flying to Qatar on Tuesday.
This week, he is scheduled to visit Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Israel before flying back to Washington on Friday.
During earlier stops in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman, Cohen has stressed to government leaders that the United States and Britain will continue to attack air defense targets in the no-fly zones of northern and southern Iraq as long as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's military fires at their patrolling jets.
Chemical weapons threat discussed
U.S. and British warplanes based in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf have been pounding Iraqi targets in the southern no-fly zone since December, increasing the intensity of their attacks in recent weeks in response to challenges from Iraqi air defenses.
Similar attacks by U.S. and British jets based in Turkey have also increased in Iraq's northern no-fly zone.
In Riyadh on Sunday, Cohen and Defense Minister Prince Sultan agreed to set up joint committees to study increasing joint army exercises in the kingdom and to work on providing defenses against the growing threat of chemical and biological weapons.
In Jordan, Egypt and Israel, Cohen will discuss bilateral military ties and the deadlocked Middle East peace process.
Under a peace deal agreed last year, Israel was to have completed a phased handover of 13 percent more of the West Bank by late January in return for a Palestinian crackdown on militants and other security measures.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze the accord in December, accusing the Palestinians of failing to meet their commitments.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Cohen heads to Persian Gulf to explain Iraq policy
Permanent Mission of Iraq to the UN
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