‘No threat’ to Iran in UAE-France drill
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Agence France-Presse
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Al Nahyan shakes hands with France’s armed forces. REUTERS photoFrance concluded yesterday two weeks of war games with the United Arab Emirates, which officials from both sides insisted were not related to regional tensions involving Iran.
The exercises, held every four years, came after a simmering row over ownership of three Gulf islands contested by the Emirates and Iran, and the United States’ deployment of cutting-edge F-22 fighter jets to the UAE.
However, French and Emirati military officials insisted yesterday that the “Gulf 2012” war games had been scheduled years ago, and that they carry no political messages to any side. “There is no relation or link between military training taking place and political events, swings, or instability in the region,” said Major-General Pilot Rashad Salem al-Saadi, head of the UAE Joint Command and Staff College.
The commander of French forces during the war games, Vice Admiral Marin Giller, also said the exercises had “no link to anything happening in the region.”
The exercises were attended by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces. They took place in the western Al-Hamra desert region near the border with Saudi Arabia and shores of the Gulf, about 250 kilometers from the coast of Iran. More than 4,500 troops, 1,800 of them from France, took part in the military exercises, which were previously held in 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2008.