U.S. Denies Establishment of Contingency Airbase in Egypt

The State Department today denied published reports that the United States has established a contingency airbase in an unpopulated part of Egypt with 100 airmen stationed there.

“The United States has no forces permanently assigned in Egypt apart from Defense attaches and the Office of Military Cooperation,” Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said.

According to the report in the Washington Post, based on classified Congressional testimony by a high ranking Pentagon official, military supplies worth about $70 million are stored at the facility and the airbase has been used for the deployment of AWACS radar planes and training missions.

The Pentagon official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Maj. Gen. Richard Secord, reportedly told the House Appropriations subcommittee last February that the base “is in the middle of nowhere” and thus “is a very good base for secret operations.”

But Romberg emphasized that the U.S. “has no base in Egypt.” He referred reporters to a letter by former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat dated July, 1981 to President Reagan which stated an Egyptian offer of “the temporary use of military facilities in Ras Binas for the purpose of assisting any Arab Moslem countries requesting such assistance to repell armed attacks affecting its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”

“In his letter, President Sadat emphasized that the use of such facilities should not contradict the non-alliance status and policy of Egypt,” Romberg continued. “The United States and Egypt cooperate in a number of ways fully consistent with Egypt’s sovereignty and in enhancing security in the Middle East.”

Romberg said that Egypt is a “full partner in the Middle East peace process and has often affirmed its interests in promoting security in the region. We believe that any cooperation undertaken to support this objective is mutually beneficial.”

FAIRBANKS JOINING HABIB, DRAPER

The Department spokesman said: “The U.S. has no forces permanently assigned to Egypt…. There are a number of U.S. military personnel on temperary assignment in various locations in Egypt supporting our military systems and providing training in the use of U.S. military equipment …. We don’t comment on the operational details of activities of that sort, but the number of personnel in Egypt is not classified.”

In an unrelated development, Romberg announced that special negotiator for the autonomy talks, Richard Fairbanks, will join special U.S. envoys to the Middle East Philip Habib and Morris Draper, when they return to the region, probably tomorrow. Romberg said Fairbanks will be working on the U.S. efforts to get the Syrians to withdraw from Lebanon.

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