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U.S. Forces Moving to More Secure Bases in Saudi Arabia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 1996 – Most U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia are moving to more secure Saudi military facilities, DoD officials announced July 31.

U.S. air operations and about 4,000 troops will move from Dhahran and Riyadh to Prince Sultan Air Base at al Kharj, about 50 miles south of Riyadh, they said. Both Dhahran and Riyadh were sites of terrorist attacks. In Dhahran, 19 airmen died after a truck bomb exploded near Khobar Towers, June 25. Seven people, including five Americans, died during a bombing at Riyadh in November.

U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Dhahran will remain, but about 500 Patriot crew members will move from Dhahran's Khobar Towers housing complex to King Abdul Aziz compound, a Saudi military base.

Other U.S. service members whose missions require them to remain in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, will consolidate in a more secure area, a DoD spokesman said.

U.S. Embassy officials in Riyadh announced the plans after Defense Secretary William J. Perry toured the base at al Kharj and met with Prince Sultan, Saudi Arabia's minister of defense, July 30 and 31.

Perry and Prince Sultan agreed to make the moves as quickly as possible to reduce disruption within Saudi Arabia and improve security for U.S. forces, embassy officials said. The defense leaders reaffirmed both nations' determination to defeat terrorism and to work for peace and stability throughout the region. They also reaffirmed their support for U.N. resolutions dealing with Iraq.

"We welcome the agreement Secretary of Defense Perry and Prince Sultan ... reached regarding the redeployment of coalition forces to new locations on Saudi facilities," White House officials said. "This agreement will improve security, while ensuring that missions will continue to be carried out effectively.

"At the same time, this agreement highlights the strong, cooperative ties that exist between our two countries," White House officials said. "These bonds of friendship will not be broken by terrorism in any form. To the contrary, working with Saudi Arabia and other like-minded states in the region, the United States is committed to defending its vital national interests by confronting terrorism and preserving the peace, prosperity and stability of the Gulf."

The move to Saudi facilities will improve security while ensuring missions continue effectively, embassy officials said. About 5,000 U.S. personnel are in Saudi Arabia. The majority support Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the U.N. no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Others help train Saudi defense forces.

Relocation is already under way, DoD officials said. The expected $200 million cost of the move will be shared equally between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi share will largely pay for infrastructure and utilities.

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