Biggest Mideast defence fair opens amid tensions

AFP , Sunday 20 Feb 2011

The largest defence exhibition in the region opened in the UAE as military expenditure continues to rise and tensions increase

The largest defence equipment exhibition in the Middle East opened in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi on Sunday, as military spending continues to grow in the region amid rising tensions.

The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) 2011 opened with a parade of helicopters, fighter jets and armoured vehicles, in the presence of UAE Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum.

The 10th edition of the biennial show, is taking place as the region is hit by a wave of protests that have toppled veteran leaders in Tunisia and Egypt since the start of the year.

The conference, which will continue until Thursday, hosts more than 1,000 exhibitors. Nearly 50,000 visitors are expected from around the world.

More than 30 pavilions most of them belonging to the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Britain, France and Germany, were spread over 124,000 square metres (0.05 square miles).

A naval defence industries exhibition, Navdex, is also being organised for the first time this year.

Manufacturers from around the world are racing to seal contracts with Gulf states, fearful of Iran but with their spending power buoyed by high oil prices.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, along with Jordan are set to spend $68 billion (49.6 billion euros) on defence in 2011, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan. Their spending is expected to reach nearly $80 billion in 2015.

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