KUWAIT CITY, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Kuwait looks poised to purchase Patriot missiles from the United States but won't allow its territory to become a springboard for any military assault, a senior defense official said.
In a published statement, Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheik Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah spelled out the intended use of the Patriot missile, clarifying that the $900 million system would boost the military's capability.
"We do not purchase arms to launch attacks on others and we do not accept attacks to be launched from our territories against other (countries)," the minister said.
U.S. officials have also backed such concerns, stressing that the missiles would be used for defensive purposes.
In a notice delivered by the Defense Security Co-operation Agency, the U.S. Congress was advised that Kuwait was seeking to buy as many as 209 of the MIM-104E Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missile-T interceptors.
Manufactured by Raytheon, the interceptors are capable of knocking down hostile aircraft and projectiles, including non-strategic ballistic missiles armed with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.
"Kuwait needs these missiles to meet current and future threats of enemy air-to-ground weapons," the Washington defense agency said in its statement to Congress.
Analysts billed the potential purchase as another example of Washington's bid to challenge the strength of Iran's armed forces and "prepare for the possibility Iran might acquire a nuclear capability," Kenneth Katzman, a congressional research analyst, was quoted saying by the Global Security Newswire.
Riddled with oil reserves, Kuwait is a staunch U.S. ally with several U.S. military bases deployed there, including Camp Arifjan, among the biggest such military facilities in the region. At least 15,000 U.S. military personnel are deployed in the Persian Gulf state.
In recent months, the United States has moved to bolster missile defense around the Middle East, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. As of January, also, the Pentagon had fielded "eight Patriot batteries in four gulf states, though, U.S. Central Command Chief Gen. David Petraeus didn't say where the systems were specifically located, the security newswire reported.
Since then, the United States has supported efforts by Israel to build and shield its territory with anti-missile systems. Both Washington and Tel Aviv believe that Iran aims to build a nuclear arsenal. Iran though, has repeatedly rebuffed the claim, saying its programs serve civilian energy purposes only.
Kuwaiti officials have yet to disclose when they will take a final decision on the purchase of the Patriot missiles.
Kuwait is also eyeing Rafale combat aircraft following a landmark defense agreement signed between the gulf state and France this year. By some accounts, Kuwait may purchase 14 Rafale airplanes by the end of the year.