French President Sarkozy to open UAE base
President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to formally open a French military base in the United Arab Emirates, France's first permanent base in the Gulf, BBC reported.
Mr Sarkozy flew to the capital, Abu Dhabi, on Monday with four ministers and a delegation of businessmen.
France is a leading military supplier to the Gulf state, and signed a nuclear cooperation agreement last year.
Its "Peace Camp" will host up to 500 French troops and include a navy base, air base, and training camp.
Mr Sarkozy said in a recent interview with Diplomatie magazine that the military presence underscored France's desire "to participate fully in the stability of this region that is essential for the world's equilibrium".
Analysts say the move positions France - along with the US and UK, who already have bases in the Gulf - for lucrative defence contracts and nuclear energy deals.
Mr Sarkozy opened his 20-hour visit to the UAE by dining with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, AFP news agency reported.
An official accompanying him said Mr Sarkozy also hopes to visit Pakistan in the autumn to show his support for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in his fight against Taliban insurgents.
France and Pakistan agreed to cooperate in the field of civilian nuclear energy during Mr Zardari's visit to Paris earlier this month, but details of the plan have yet to be agreed.
An aide to the French leader also said that India will be guest of honour at France's national day celebrations this year.
Indian regiments would march in front of the French army in Paris on 14 July and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be present at the parade, the official said.