By Marwa Awad
CAIRO, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Egypt has no foreign militarybases on its soil and has no plans to downsize its armed forces,said the military spokesman, rejecting media reports claimingso.
Military aid from the United States of $1.3 billion per yearallows Egypt to reduce its defence procurement related costs,Colonel Ahmed Ali said in response to reports Egypt's armycontracted with U.S.-based security companies.
"There are no American or foreign military bases in Egypt,"Ali told reporters on Thursday. "There never has been and therenever will be any foreign military bases in Egypt. This is afixed stance in Egyptian national security policy to preservenational sovereignty.
"Any decision to install military bases in Egypt would be apolitical decision taken over many stages including presentingthe matter to the national defence council and parliament forconsideration. But this issue is farfetched."
There are 1,600 Multinational Forces and Observer troopsfrom the United States, Canada, Australia, France and othernations in the Sinai to monitor the 1979 Egypt-Israel peacetreaty. The MFO facilities are sometimes mistaken for foreignbases.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement also denyingthe presence of U.S. military bases in Egypt.
"The security and stability of the armed forces cannotwithstand being subject to suspicion or faulted analysis andguesswork resulting from lack of understanding of how the armedforces is managed," Ali said.
Egypt's armed forces were thrust to the forefront ofpolitics when the military council took power from PresidentHosni Mubarak in February last year, gradually coming underimmense public scrutiny for what many said was its mismanagementof the interim period and the army's lack of transparency withthe public.
But after new President Mohamed Mursi reshuffled thecouncil, installing younger commanders more in tune with agrowingly skeptical public, the military has moved to recoverits image as a professional nationalist institution.
Ali also denied talk that the Egyptian army was beingdownsized, saying such talk was "illogical." Egypt's armedforces are the biggest in the region and U.S. WikiLeaks cableshave cited there was pressure on Egypt to downsize its army.
Ali sought to explain the army's reliance on U.S. militaryaid, the subject of much contention among activists and officerswithin the military who say the aid arrangement was not inEgypt's defence interests.
"The U.S. offers Egypt military aid annually worth $1.3billion," he said. "This aid is a contract in kind and not incash. Egypt does not receive money but receives weapons,equipment and spare parts to develop its armament system. Thereare training missions to exchange expertise between the twocountries."
That aid is carried out through contracts set up betweenEgypt's armed forces, the U.S. Defense Department and U.S.private and government security companies, one of which isDyncorp International Inc, said Ali.
The U.S. State Department relies on private securitycontractors to protect its staff movement in countries acrossthe Middle East such as Iraq and Egypt and has awarded severalfive-year contracts to private security contractors includingDyncorp worth $90 million to offer services to U.S. Armypersonnel in Egypt.
"A contracting company like Dyncorp offers logistical andadministrative services to U.S. technicians and experts trainingEgyptian army personnel," Ali said. "This saves Egypt a lot ofmoney in comparison to what we would spend if we deal with suchvisitors on an individual basis. These companies are brokers whohelp manage the aid."
The army has been under pressure from activists andpoliticians to bring its unannounced defence budget, whichincludes a sprawling business enterprise and industrial complex,to parliamentary oversight.
(Editing by Bill Trott)
Keywords: EGYPT ARMY/