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U.S. to Move Middle East Air Operations from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. - 2003-04-29


The United States is ending its military operations in Saudi Arabia and removing nearly all American forces from the kingdom…now that the threat from Iraq has gone. U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld confirming this as he continued his tour of the Persian gulf region. Brian Purchia has more.

Mr. Rumsfeld says the United States will move its major Middle East air operations center from Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan airbase to a base in Qatar.

“By mutual agreement the aircraft that had been involved will now be able to leave with us grateful for the support and cooperation that the kingdom provided.”

The announcement came Tuesday after a meeting in Saudi Arabia between Secretary Rumsfeld and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Sultan. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Dave Nichols says nearly all U.S. Air Force personnel will leave Saudi Arabia within months.

The United States used bases in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 war to force Iraq out of Kuwait. American warplanes also used Saudi bases to patrol the so-called southern "no-fly zone" in Iraq.

There were about 10,000 American personnel in Saudi Arabia during the most recent Iraqi conflict. But the Saudis did not permit the U.S. to use their bases to stage attacks during the war.

However, Mr. Rumsfeld says the United States and Saudi Arabia would still continue military cooperation in the form of training and joint exercises.