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Secretary Cohen's Remarks at the Cairo Ministry of Defense

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
March 15, 1999

Subject: Secretary Cohen's Remarks to Press After Meeting With Minister of Defense Tantawi at the Ministry of Defense, Cairo, Egypt

Secretary Cohen: We've just concluded a very good meeting with Field Marshal Tantawi. I have invited him to visit me in Washington in May and, hopefully, that can be arranged and he will pay a visit so that we can reciprocate in terms of his hospitality here on two occasions now. We also discussed our level of cooperation on a military to military basis and our desire to help Egypt modernize its military. And we have very close cooperation in the fields of trying to share information on chemical and biological weapons. We have programs that can help upgrade their capability. We have agreed, for example, that they should have Patriot 3, that they should also have an additional 24 F16 aircraft, and 200 M1A1 tank kits. Those are the items that we have agreed that we would be in a position to provide in the future. So that was a part of our ongoing effort to help Egypt modernize.

Q: Excuse me, was it 24 or 12, sir, on the F16s?

A: 24 F16s.

Q: What would be the price of that?

A: Roughly within $1.2 billion.

Q: Egypt requested these?

A: Exactly.

Q: What was the reaction you got from the Minister when you...

A: ...told him about your questions?

(Laughter)

Q: I think it was an Egyptian who asked first... Did you essentially formally present him with the word that the Executive Branch of the United States is ready to offer this deal and then what did he say?

A: I said that we were speaking on behalf on the Defense Department. We were prepared to support these requests and I think that he was very pleased to hear that. What I perhaps didn't elaborate on during the prior press availability was the fact that if Egypt believes that these items are in their interest-- their national security interest-- to replace old and outdated equipment.

If they make the request to the United States and we say, "I'm sorry, we're not going to provide you with any modernized equipment," I think that they would feel or take that as an insult. They would see this as a breach of our friendship with them, that we are unwilling to provide them with what they think is necessary for their own national security, and would look elsewhere. There are many potential suppliers-- Russians, Chinese, French, British and others-- who would seek to fulfill their request. And I think that they would look very skeptically upon our friendship as well as our partnership if we just said "Sorry, we made a decision that is superior to your decision. You don't need this, you shouldn't have it."

So, we believe that a strong military relationship supports a strong diplomatic and political relationship that builds peace and stability in the region. And Egypt, of course, has been a role model for some 20 years now-- since the Camp David Accords-- and you can look to the Egyptian-Israeli relationship as a model for others to follow. So, we believe this relationship is very, very important and that's the reason we continue to support our friendship with Egypt.

Q: (inaudible)

A: Well, as you know Patriot is still in the development phase but as soon as this is scheduled to (inaudible). It will take several years.

Thank you very much.