Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH on Monday clinched a $209 million deal to help supply a chemical defence system for the UAE armed forces, military procurement chief Brigadier Ubaid al-Kitbi said.

  

The announcement, on the second day of IDEX 2005, comes amid growing military and economic links between Berlin and Abu Dhabi, where German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is expected later this month.

  

His trip, part of an accelerated exchange of visits by top officials of the two countries, might lead to the signing of a letter of intent for the sale of German tanks and submarines to the UAE, a German newspaper reported on Monday.

 

Offers studied

  

Abu Dhabi's IDEX is the biggest
arms show in the Arab world

Kiel-based Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH won the deal in the face of competition from British and Austrian firms after the UAE spent four years studying offers to give its armed forces a radiological, biological and chemical detection system, al-Kitbi said.

  

A spokesman for the winner's parent company Rheinmetall AG, one of some 900 exhibitors from 50 countries taking part in IDEX, said it will supply NBC Fox (ABC Fuchs in German) armoured reconnaissance vehicles to the UAE.

 

NBC Fox is "the leading system to detect nuclear, biological and chemical threats ... . It's like a laboratory on wheels," Oliver Hoffmann said.

  

Hoffmann, whose company has already supplied the Mass self-protection system to Emirati navy ships, declined to say how many vehicles are being sold under the new deal, saying he could not reveal details a customer withholds.

  

The deal for the NBC Fox was by far the biggest of several contracts worth a total $288 million announced by al-Kitbi on Monday, including a small contract with another German company, Aeromaritime, for signal equipment worth the equivalent of $7 million.

 

Contracts

  

German Chancellor Shroeder is to
visit the UAE shortly

Other winners included Belgium's Sabiex International SA, which will upgrade Emirati armoured vehicles at a cost of $16.6 million, and France's GEIF Eurotorp, which will supply ammunition worth $15.5 million.

 

The contracts take the total value of the deals announced by Abu Dhabi during the first two days of the show to $646 million.

  

The biggest of a series of deals announced at the opening on Sunday of the five-day arms bazaar also went to a German company, Rohde and Schwarz GmbH, which will upgrade the Emirati army's communications system at a cost of $144 million.

  

"We have a well-known policy of diversifying our sources of weaponry. We look for the best," al-Kitbi said.

  

"We are always boosting our relations with all sides," he said, pointing to arms deals signed in the past few years with France, Britain and the United States.

 

More deals

  

"We have a well-known policy of diversifying our sources of weaponry. We look for the best"

Brigadier Ubaid al-Kitbi,
UAE military procurement chief

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Monday that the UAE wants to buy hundreds of German military tanks and a number of submarines.

  

Citing government and industry sources, the newspaper said the sale was likely to be rubber-stamped shortly by the German government, which has already agreed on forming a "strategic partnership" with the UAE.

  

German Interior Minister Otto Schily is currently on a tour of the Gulf region that will include a stopover in the UAE to assess progress being made by German experts on training members of Iraq's police force in the country.

  

The sale is likely to be discussed when Schroeder, accompanied by a large business delegation, travels to the UAE during a trip to the Gulf from 27 February to 5 March.

 

A letter of intent could even be signed during his trip, the daily said.

  

Germany has trained both Iraqi soldiers and police in the UAE.