Kuwait: Rafale a "Priority"... Objections Arise

22.03.2010 Aviation & Space

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An Islamist parliamentary bloc in Kuwait warned the government against the planned purchase of French-made Rafale warplanes, saying the deal was "suspicious."

"The bloc reiterates its firm rejection of this suspicious deal, especially following information that the latest technical reports have recommended the rejection of the deal," a statement by the Reform and Development Bloc said.

The written statement, released March 21, did not say why the deal was deemed suspicious, and there has been no official word that Kuwait was reconsidering the purchase.

In November, some opposition MPs claimed the proposed contract was over-inflated. A technical defense ministry team has been assessing the deal, but its findings have not been publicized.

"We warn the government against squandering public funds on suspicious deals," said the bloc's spokesman, Waleed al-Tabtabai.

The political grouping comprises four Islamist MPs who have been campaigning against several proposed arms deals, especially the deal for up to 28 Rafale combat aircraft.

The statement also said no country in the world had bought Rafales so far. Many countries have expressed interest in the multi-role combat fighter, but no deal has been finalized.

Last week, Defense Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah said the Rafale deal remained a priority for Kuwait.

In November, Kuwait's parliament voted unanimously to ask the independent accounting watchdog Audit Bureau to probe three planned arms deals with the United States and France that one lawmaker said were worth billions of dollars.

The deals include the planned purchase of an unspecified number of U.S.-made Hercules transport aircraft, an ammunition factory and the Rafale fighters.

In October, Kuwait and France signed a new defense agreement and discussed details of the Rafale deal.

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 a green light and passed the matter to technical teams for detailed scrutiny.

During a Gulf tour in February 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said discussions had begun with Kuwait to sell between 14 and 28 Rafales, which are made by France's Dassault Aviation.




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