In a major strategic shift, France is setting up its first permanent naval base in the Persian Gulf, just across from Iran, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced during a visit yesterday to the United Arab Emirates.
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The 400-strong military base will be built in Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest and most influential of the Emirates, and will include a significant intelligence operation, French officials said.
It will make France one of a small number of Western countries alongside the United States to have a military presence in a region that is of increasing geopolitical importance both because of its lucrative gas and oil resources and because of its proximity to Iran.
The agreement is "a sign to all that France is participating in the stability of this region of the world," Sarkozy told reporters after signing the accord, the Associated Press reported.
Military analysts and officials said that it would take several months to build the French base and that 400 troops were not enough to deter Iran or significantly shift the balance of power in the region.
But they also said the new base was an important symbolic step that signaled that Paris wanted to play a greater role in the future.
"This is quite a revolution," said a government official familiar with the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to the news media.
"We are no longer in our historic sphere of influence.
"Now we're in a country we never colonized."
Source:Another impact of Iran's ambition to build nuclear facilities has been a rush among Arab countries to look at programs of their own.
France signed a deal on nuclear energy cooperation with the Emirates yesterday, a first step toward the construction of a nuclear reactor with an estimated price tag of up to 4 billion euros, or $6 billion.
Now this is an interesting development.