Saturday, June 10, 2006

Foreign Minister in Russia for Weapons Deal

Morocco's Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa is in Moscow for a two day visit. The highlights of Benaissa’s meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will be stepping up military and technical cooperation. According to analysts, Rabat may need Russian weapons to pre-emt further separatist pretension in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara and to solve the conflict there for its own benefit.

The official agenda of today’s meeting of Lavrov and Benaissa sets forward discussing the joint fight against terrorism, situation in the Middle East, Iraq and Iran and settlement in the Western Sahara. The informal highlight, however, could be widening military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Rabat. The Moroccan delegation is likely to negotiate with Russia’s weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport, large weapon contracts.

The sources say one of Benaissa's concerns in Moscow is to check on advancement in military contracts worth nearly $250 million, which were concluded in January 2005. The key point in the contracts is delivery of 12 Tunguska-M1 missile and gun complexes. The first consignment of six Tunguska-M1s was supplied last year and Benaissa could be willing to supervise the delivery of the remaining complexes.

Another concern for Benaissa could be the agreement on the purchase of a wide range of armaments, including up to 50 missile launchers and 1,000 missiles of 9K115-2 Metis-M anti tank systems, spares and armaments for T-72 tanks, BTR-90 and BMP-3 combat vehicles and up to a hundred of military KamAZ trucks.

Benaissa apparently also intends to start talks about the purchase of up to 20 Mi-35 and Mi-17 helicopters, a few high-speed motor boats and amphibious vessels. The contracts for these armaments, which overall budget is estimated to over a $1 billion, could be sealed during Putin's visit to Rabat next September.


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