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Schröder Wraps Up Big Business Gulf Tour

DW staff (sp)March 5, 2005

German Chancellor Schröder ended his week-long visit to the Persian Gulf region Saturday on a robust economic note as he oversaw the signing of a series of lucrative projects worth several million euros.

Red carpet welcome: Schröder, foreground right, in Abu DhabiImage: AP

Speaking in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the last leg of his seven-day tour, on Saturday, Schröder was upbeat about his several meetings with Gulf leaders and businessmen, saying the political and economic talks in all seven nations he had visited had been "extraordinarily successful." The chancellor underlined that his desire to forge closer contacts with the region had found a positive resonance in the Gulf countries.

Gerhard Schröder besucht die Frauenuniversität in Abu Dhabi
Schröder also visited the women's university in Abu DhabiImage: AP

On Saturday, Schröder capped his fruitful tour by overseeing the signing of eight contracts for a series of projects worth some $1.5 billion in Abu Dhabi. A consortium led by Siemens AG Power Generation and including Italy's Fisia Italimpianti signed an $860 million contract with the Abu-Dhabi based Asia Gulf Power Holding Company for a privatization project in Abu Dhabi's electricity sector, according to members in Schröder's delegation.

The Emirati authorities also signed a memorandum of understanding with a German consortium, led by Dornier Consulting, to carry out a feasibility study for a rail network in Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven city states that make up the UAE federation. The study is part of a broader feasibility study for the establishment of a multi-billion-dollar railway network approved last year by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

German firms have expressed an interest in the vast project, which involves the six GCC states and Yemen, and which was discussed by Schröder during meetings in Abu Dhabi. The GCC groups Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

The signing of the contracts was attended on the UAE side by the Crown Prince of oil-rich Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who is also deputy commander in chief of the UAE armed forces.

In a speech in front of a delegation of businessmen in Abu Dhabi, Schröder also urged increased the UAE to increase its investments in Germany. The chancellor insisted that bilateral trade still offered several possibilities for both sides, saying German firms in particular had a lot to offer in the field of environment technology.

Defense deals could be awkward

A further done deal on Saturday centered on defense, a topic which is expected to prove controversial in Germany.

Spürpanzer Fuchs in Kuwait
A German soldier directs the NBC defence vehicle 'Fox' at their base in Camp Doha, outside Kuwait City.Image: AP

The UAE is set to get 32 NBC Fox (ABC Fuchs in German) armored reconnaissance vehicles from Germany's Germany's Rheinmetall AG for €160 million.

Schröder was cautious about arms exports to the region, saying that they would be "decided on a case to case basis" according to legal regulations in Germany.

Chancellor Schröder's junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Greens, are long known to have deep misgivings about the prospect of exporting arms and tanks to the Gulf region.

The Greens are currently against the export of the NBC Fox armored reconnaissance vehicles to the UAE. Security spokesman for the Greens, Winfried Nachtwei recently told the Netzzeitung that the reason for their opposition was the fact that the UAE "has not ratified important arms control agreements."

More German aid for Iraq

Schröder in Abu Dhabi
Schröder meets German soldiers stationed in Abu DhabiImage: AP

A further important topic on Schröder's agenda Saturday included giving the go-ahead for further German help in training the Iraqi army and police. Schröder also visited German security officials stationed in Abu Dhabi, who are currently training Iraqi soldiers.

The agreement provides for the German armed forces to train a battalion of 250 Iraqi army engineers, which could eventually be expanded to 350, in the UAE, an AFP correspondent reported. Between 70 and 80 German soldiers will train the Iraqis starting in April and ending in November. The UAE and Germany will supply the required equipment. The Iraqis will receive equipment worth €2 million from the German army. It will include heavy trucks and transporters as well as 30 ambulances.

"The troops are doing a good job here," Schröder commented. Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led war on Iraq, has been training Iraqi police and soldiers in the UAE since last year. In a speech following the signing ceremony, Schröder suggested that Berlin and Abu Dhabi also work together in assisting "the civil reconstruction process in Iraq."