| GEO World|
| UAE spends $5 bln on arms deals|
| Updated at: 0517 PST, Saturday, February 28, 2009|
ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates, across the Gulf from Iran, signed military deals worth 18.4 billion dirhams ($5 billion) during an arms exhibition in Abu Dhabi this week, a senior officer said on Thursday.
Major-General Obaid al-Ketbi said the deals awarded at the five-day International Defence Exhibition were a five-fold rise over those signed at the last show in 2007, but denied that the Gulf Arab state was in the middle of an arms race.
"There is no arms race in the region," Ketbi said. "We have a strategic plan ... Each country focuses on its plans."
Iran has been locked in a dispute with the West over its nuclear plans, often raising fears in the region of a military conflict. Iran says its nuclear plans are peaceful but the United States says the Islamic Republic wants to make a bomb.
Some 897 companies from 50 countries participated in the arms show, Ketbi said.
"The numbers prove that the UAE and especially the Abu Dhabi economy is strong," Ketbi said, despite a global financial crisis and slump in oil prices. The UAE is the second-largest Arab economy and the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.
Contracts awarded on Thursday included a 430 million dirham deal with Italy's Fincantieri to supply one anti-submarine warship.
On Tuesday, Ketbi said U.S. companies Boeing (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) had been awarded contracts worth $2.8 billion for military transport aircraft by the UAE.