Egypt Renews Offer to Help Defend Gulf States
Egypt has once again offered to help Gulf Arab nations with regional defense efforts.
Gulf sources were quoted by the Middle East Newsline (MENL) as saying Egypt had broached the subject with several of its allies in the Gulf. The latest mention was made during last week's visit by Kuwaiti Defense Minister Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah to Cairo.
According to MENL, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is said to have raised the issue with both Washington and several Gulf countries. The sources said a previous Egyptian offer aroused little interest, particularly from such countries as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
As a result, the sources said, Cairo has revised its offer and has stressed that it does not intend to deploy troops in the Gulf. Instead, the plans are based on the interoperability between Gulf and Egyptian early warning and command and control systems.
This would allow the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to monitor threats from the direction of the Red Sea. The new Egyptian offer has been discussed with the United States, said the report.
For his part, the Kuwaiti defense minister did not reject Egyptian participation in the Gulf states' regional defense. Sabah said the GCC could benefit from Egypt's military expertise and defense industries.
Sabah said Monday that he "does not rule out" an Egyptian role in a recent Gulf Arab defense agreement.
Egypt "could directly participate in implementing the joint Gulf defence pact," he said following Egypt trip, quoted by a Kuwaiti newspaper.
Sheikh Jaber did not give further details of Cairo's possible role in the Gulf Arab defense plan, but stressed "the need to benefit from Egypt's military experience."
Defense experts told Reuters the new idea involved linking some Gulf systems, like command and control operations, to Egypt across the Red Sea to widen the range of coverage of a planned defense shield for the region.
The six Gulf Arab states are already integrating their military command and control structures to set up an early-warning network to cover the Arabian Peninsula and allow them to coordinate a swift response in case of a threat, said the agency.
Last week, the Kuwait Times said Washington and Cairo had discussed the Gulf defense plan and setting up a defensive "network" with US and Egyptian participation.
Last month, Kuwait's Parliament approved the pact, which also calls for building up - with private sector aid - a military industrial base capable of supplying basic military needs.
The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain agreed on defense cooperation at an annual summit in December 2000.
In a related report, MENL said that Kuwait had failed to complete a deal for the purchase of anti-aircraft systems from Egypt.
MENL said that the Kuwaiti defense minister ended his four-day visit to Cairo over the weekend without signing an expected $120 million agreement to purchase the Al Amoun air defense system.
Sabah was expected to sign for an order for at least two systems with an option for an additional three - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)