|France signs arms deals and security cooperation agreement with Yemen|
|Pact provides for setting up radars on Red Sea island of Meon
France and Yemen have signed a military and security cooperation agreement providing for joint exercises, exchange of intelligence and the supply of French military equipment to Sanaa, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said on Sunday.
The pact, inked with Yemeni counterpart General Abdullah Ali Eleiwah, stipulates equipping six gunboats France had earlier supplied to the Yemeni coastguard, Alliot-Marie told reporters.
The minister, who also held talks with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during her visit, said that under the accord, joint exercises would take place between the two countries' naval forces and special forces.
The French minister is also scheduled to visit Aden to get acquainted with the economic development in the port city.
The agreement also provides for setting up radars and other military equipment on the island of Meon in the Bab el-Mandeb strait in the Red Sea that would enable Yemeni forces and French forces based in nearby Djibouti, France's largest foreign military base, to cooperate in fighting drug and arms smuggling and terrorism.
France is the third largest military exporter to the developing world, after the USA and Russia, averaging sales of $1 billion a year.
Russia's weapon exports to Yemen reached $100 million in 2004. Yemen currently imports Russian helicopters, infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition and small arms.
Experts estimate in 2004 and 2005 that military exports will exceed $4 billion annually, down from 2003's record $5.1 billion.
The delivery of Russian military equipment to Yemen began in 2000 when Russia supplied the country with 31 modern T-80 tanks. In 2001 Moscow and Sanaa signed a contract for the delivery of MiG-29 fighter planes. The first batch was delivered to Yemen in 2002.
The volume of Russia's military equipment sales to Yemen has now reached $8 billion.
Beirut,03 07 2005
The Daily Star