January 1999

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Arms Spending:

Saudi Arabia reviewing arms spending, and deals with Yemen, which has given up on the idea of joining the GCC, while trouble looms in Kuwait parliament. 

Rift over Bombing:

King Fhad's youngest son meets President Clinton and denies any rift over the 1996 bombing investigation, but his claim conflicts with an FBI account. But this also reflects the illusive nature of the Saudi American friendship


The oil rich emirate's is threatened with dissolution as deputies seek to question ministers on arms-import deals, alleged corruption, and the illicit drug trade and human rights issues. The deputies are trying to force the defence ministry to scrap plans to buy 48 "unsuitable" M109A6 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers from the US. The entire government failed to attend a parliamentary session on 10 June. The parliament was dissolved by the Emir after opposition grew in the 1980's. 

Saudi Arabia faces massive deficit:

The Kingdom is planning to save money by spending about $1 billion to improve its armoured personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. This contract will include 130 90mm canons, 260 50-calibre heavy machineguns, 160,000 anti-tank shells and training facilities. Save money? 'Yes,' say the Saudis. 'We are not buying new weapons.' With good reason. The army already has about 3,000 armoured vehicles, and there aren't enough troops to go on them! 

Saudi / Yemen:

Saudi Arabia and Yemen have agreed that their joint technical and legal committee should continue meetings for the final demarcation of their border, the Saudi Press Agency reported on 8 June. The last round of talks was held in May 98.


Having its application to join the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) put on hold since 1966 turned down several times Yemen said it would not repeat a request to join the grouping again. Yemen may only expect to receive observer status in the group, which is striving somewhat unsuccessfully to enhance political, military and economic ties between the member states. The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, only UAE president Sheikh Zaied once spoke openly for his desire to accept Yemen, in an interview with Adel Darwish for the Independent in December 1989 in order to keep Yemen away from Iraq.


The kidnapping of sixteen foreign tourists in Yemenon 28 December and the tragic death of four of them during a rescue operation. This incident marked a change in the kidnaping saga as it took a serious political dimension and came only 24 hours after tribsemen attacked the oil pipleline.
Some Yemeni tribesmen, who have been involved in kidnapping foreigners, say they will help the government put an end to the abductions, which have threatened the growth of tourism. But many observers don't believe that since kidnapping has become a lucrative business. 

Threats to America in the Gulf:

The US Navy cancelled shore leave in the region and advised servicemen to be extra cautious. Two years ago this month a bomb went off in the US military compound in Al-Khobor killed several service men. Recent threats by Saudi dissidentOsama Bin Laden - who is the prime suspect in the attack have also contributed to the tension. Security has been tightened around US at embassies throughout the Middle East. American citizens were advised to be alert and inconspicuous when travelling in the region. The US has withdrawn its Air Force Air Expeditionary Wing from Bahrain's Sheikh Isa airbase. Bahrain had agreed in March to extend the deployment of US aircraft on its territory for a further two months at the height of the crisis between Iraq and the UN over weapons inspections The last of 12 F-117 stealth fighters deployed in Kuwait last November returned to the US on 7 June.


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