France has opened its first military base in the Persian Gulf, strategically placed in Abu Dhabi, between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran.
French soldiers en route to Afghanistan can stop at the new UAE base
France and the United Arab Emirates each raised flags over their naval base on Tuesday as forces from both nations stood at attention and French President Nicolas Sarkozy looked on.
Around 500 French soldiers will be stationed there, part of an effort by Paris to boost its profile in the oil- and gas-rich region.
It it is also to serve as a stopover point en route to Afghanistan, where 2,800 French soldiers are currently fighting against Taliban militants.
First foreign base since the 1960s
The base is France's first major foreign military installation since the 1960s and its first outside Africa. It is also expected to contribute to anti-piracy patrols off Somalia and guard vital Persian Gulf shipping lanes.
The ceremony was part of a two-day trip for Sarkozy, who is also to visit a future site of a branch of the Louvre Museum, and discuss business deals in the region.
Editor: Chuck Penfold