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Central Command, Qatar Negotiating on Base

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DOHA, Qatar, April 5, 2000 – The U.S. Central Command is negotiating with Qatar for rights to use the air base at Al Uedid as a site for a U.S. air expeditionary force, DoD officials said here April 5.

The U.S. Air Force deploys air expeditionary forces to the region periodically during times of crisis and when there are gaps in the coverage by aircraft carriers. The Qatari base is next to a depot for pre-positioned U.S. military equipment.

“There’s willingness by both parties to reach an agreement, a DoD official said. "It’s just a matter of terms and conditions.” The official said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Qatari Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani touched on the ongoing air base talks when they met here April 5.

“There is interest by both parties in seeing the base as an integral part in the military-to-military relationship, … in seeing [the base] become a centerpiece in our relationship,” he said.”

The official said the agreement could come in a “couple of months,” but much work would need to be done. To base up to 40 aircraft at the facility would mean building ramp space, hangars, maintenance facilities, and refueling and arming areas, among other improvements.

“If we do reach an agreement… , the next step would be to go to the Congress and talk about how much money it would cost, and justify it,” he said.

The official said the negotiations are not in response to a specific action by Iran or Iraq, but part of the U.S. approach to build an integrated regional coalition.

“Our presence at the base would be one part of that regional security framework -- not focused at one particular country or another, but part of a system we would like to have in place” he said.

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