France to open first Gulf military base in UAE

Sarkozy aims to boost military ties in the region


French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to formally open his country's first military base in the Gulf region in Abu Dhabi in May, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said on Saturday.

The Saudi-owned paper quoted French diplomatic sources as saying that Sarkozy would travel to the United Arab Emirates to inaugurate the base amid efforts by France to bolster relations in the Gulf.

In 2008 France signed an agreement with the UAE to set up its first permanent military base in Abu Dhabi. "It will be the first such French base in the Gulf and it will face the Strait of Hormuz," a French presidential source said in early last year.

The strategic Strait of Hormuz is a vital conduit through which an estimated 40 per cent of the world's crude oil passes.

French officials said that the base will eventually host 400-500 French army, navy and air force personnel. France is a leading military supplier to the UAE, and the two countries are linked by a 1995 defense pact.