CNN BREAKING NEWS
U.S., Qatar Reach Agreement Allowing Use of Air Base
Aired December 11, 2002 - 10:43 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We have a breaking development coming to us out of Doha, Qatar.
Our Wolf Blitzer is standing by in Qatar this morning. Let's check and see what he's got for us right now.
Hello, Wolf. What's the word?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Leon.
It's a very important military and political development unfolding here in Qatar. Shortly, the United States and Qatar will sign an agreement that will formally allow the United States to use the huge Udaid Airbase in Qatar. It's an airbase with a 15,000-long- foot runway, the longest runway in this part of the world, in the Persian Gulf region.
The defense secretary, the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, within the next hour or two, once he gets here to Doha, the capital of Qatar, will go to the foreign ministry, meet with the foreign minister of Qatar. They will have a formal signing ceremony, making it official, making official what's been in practice over the past several years, the United States using this airbase, the Udaid Airbase in Qatar.
This is an airbase that already can facilitate virtually every kind of U.S. warplane, cargo plane in the region, all of which very significant, coming as it is on the eve, perhaps, of a possible war between the United States and its coalition partners on the one hand, and Iraq on the other hand.
Now, separately, there is a second military base here, the Asali (ph) Base, where the U.S. central command has been temporarily headquartered over the past few days and will continue to be temporarily headquartered, as the U.S. commander of this Central Command, General Tommy Franks, has engaged very, very personally and deeply in the war games that are going on, these U.S. war games, code named "Operation Internal Look."
The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is going to participating, witnessing those war games tomorrow here in Qatar. He will spend almost the entire day out at the Asali (ph) Base. That's where the war games are being headquartered. But it enables the commanding general, Tommy Franks, to be in touch with all of the U.S. forces throughout the region, as well as U.S. Forces back in the United States at McDill Air Force Base, the headquarters of the central command in Tampa, Florida as well as the Pentagon. But the most important news is that the government of Qatar politically making an important statement on the eve, perhaps, of a war with -- between the United States and Iraq, that it will stand with the United States, formally give the U.S. base privileges at this huge Udaid Airbase -- Leon.
HARRIS: Very interesting, Wolf.
And what's also interesting what kind of signal this sends to the wider Arab world, and while this may actually affect decisions made in other Arab capitals in cooperation with this operation in the Middle East.
We'll let you go.
You have something else?
BLITZER: I was going to say, that's a good point, because the U.S. does have these kinds of informal arrangements with several countries in the region, Saudi Arabia, of course Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, but this is a very formal public arrangement that will send a powerful political signal to the rest of the Arab world.
HARRIS: Exactly. Thanks, Wolf.
We'll let you go now. We're going to catch up with you again next hour.
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