Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kuwait MPs order probe into proposed arms deals

Kuwait's parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday to ask the Audit Bureau to probe three planned arms deals with the United States and France that one lawmaker said are worth billions of dollars.

The decision, requested by 32 MPs and not opposed by cabinet ministers present at the parliamentary session, calls on the independent Audit Bureau to investigate whether the acts were "in line with Kuwaiti laws."

The contracts concern the planned purchase of an unspecified number of US Hercules transport aircraft, an ammunition factory and up to 28 French-made Rafale warplanes.

Islamist MP Jamaan al-Harbash alleged that Defence Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah, who did not attend the session, has kept parliament in the dark regarding these arms deals.

He said that the minister has refused to answer his questions about the three deals, which are "worth billions of dollars."

Some opposition MPs have claimed the value of the possible deals was inflated.

No details were provided in parliament about the deals or their value.

Last month, Kuwait and France signed a new defence agreement in Paris and discussed details about a possible sale of Rafale war planes.

Sheikh Jaber said after talks in Paris that Kuwait would be "proud" to have the supersonic Rafale jet for its armed forces at some point in the future.

He said he had given the Rafale the green light and passed the matter to technical teams for detailed scrutiny.

"We hope to get the Rafale for our air force," he said, without saying how many planes Kuwait might acquire.

During a Gulf tour in February, Sarkozy said discussions had begun with Kuwait for the sale of between 14 and 28 of the Dassault-made fighters.


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