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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pakistan hopes to boost arms exports at exhibition

KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistan, whose defense-related exports exceeded $200 million in the last fiscal year, is touting locally built tanks and other weapons to carve a niche for itself in the global arms market, a top army official said on Tuesday.

Pakistani military is showcasing domestically produced arms and defense equipment at a four-day exhibition -- IDEAS 2006 -- in the city of Karachi.

"Our target is to get a major deal and sell Al-Khalid (a tank), Al-Zarar (a tank) or K-8 trainer (aircraft)," said Major General Absar Hussain, director general of the Defence Export Promotion Organisation.

A deal for any one of the systems would be seen as a success, he said.

More then 230 companies from about 50 countries, including the United States, France, Germany, China and Turkey, are taking part in the exhibition. Companies from Pakistan's old rival, India, have not been invited, officials said.

"It is the kind of response which is very encouraging for us," Hussain said, referring to the number of participants.

"We are hoping that our big-ticket items will fetch good deals and prices."

Pakistan mostly exports defence equipment and arms to countries in the Middle East and South Asia, and its defence officials are hopeful that these exports will surpass $500 million a year within the next five years.

Hussain said while Pakistan saw its main markets in the Middle East and South Asia, it would not ignore Southeast Asia and Africa.

Tracked vehicles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as a wide range of small arms and ammunition are on display at the show.

Among the displays were models of Agosta submarines, which are being built in Pakistan under a transfer of technology agreement with France, and models of the JF-17 Thunder aircraft, being jointly manufactured by Pakistan and China.

Security is tight with about 15,000 police and paramilitary troops deployed in Karachi, especially around the exhibition venue.

"They are guarding the exhibition centre, hotels and all the routes leading to the venue," said provincial government spokesman Salahuddin Haider.

Fourteen people, including 11 French naval engineers working on the submarine project, were killed in a bomb attack in Karachi in May 2002.
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