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U.S. Helps Middle East Allies Modernize Forces

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TEL AVIV, Israel, March 11, 1999 – The United States is providing foreign military funding to Jordan and Egypt to help modernize their defense forces, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Cohen traveled to six Persian Gulf and three Middle Eastern nations March 8-12. The secretary stopped briefly in Egypt and Jordan before reaching the trip's final stop here March 11 and 12.

In Egypt, Cohen announced executive branch approval of an Egyptian request for a $3.2 billion foreign military aid package. Pending congressional approval, the money would allow Egypt to buy eight U.S. Patriot 3 missile system fire units, 24 additional F-16 fighters and 200 M-1A1 tank kits to be assembled in Egypt.

The secretary told reporters traveling with him that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak was pleased to hear the Pentagon supports his request.

All sovereign nations have national security requirements, and each determines what equipment and technology purchases are in its best interest, Cohen said of the arms sales. When asked, the U.S. government is eager to help those nations who call upon the United States because of its technological superiority, he said.

"We work very closely with our friends," Cohen said. "We make an assessment when they make their request and we try to comply as best we can. We think it's in our interest and theirs when they make these requests."

Egypt has already purchased 555 M-1A1 tanks and 196 F-16 fighters. The new fighters and tanks will be delivered over the next two years. The Patriot 3, being developed and tested in the United States, is several years from delivery, according to senior defense officials traveling with Cohen.

Cohen paid his respects March 10 to Jordan's King Abdullah and reported Jordan's requested $300 million economic and military aid package is moving through Congress. He said half will go primarily toward modernizing Jordan's defense forces.

U.S. defense experts are helping Jordan review its defense needs, a senior U.S. defense official said. Jordan's defense leaders are focusing primarily on enhancing their land forces' sustainment and readiness and on developing mobility and anti- armor capabilities.

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