US diplomats have on several occasions intervened to convince foreign governments to buy aircraft from Boeing rather than its European rival Airbus, newly released diplomatic cables show. The cables, obtained by the New York Times from the whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks, document several incidents in which diplomats were involved in haggling over the -billion-dollar deals seen as key to US economic growth.
One cable describes Saudi King Abdullah responding favorably to a personal request from then-US president George W. Bush in 2006 that he buy as many as 43 Boeing jets for Saudi Arabian Airlines and another 13 for the royal fleet.
However, the king “wanted to have all the technology that his friend, President Bush, had on Air Force One,” the cable said.
Once the king’s own plane was outfitted with the world’s most advanced telecommunications and defense equipment, “‘God willing,’ he will make a decision that will ‘please you very much,’” the cable said.
In November last year, state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines said it had signed a contract for 12 new Boeing 777-300ER jets worth about US$3.3 billion.
The US Department of State confirmed to the Times that it had authorized an “upgrade” to the king’s plane, but declined to provide further details on security grounds.
In another incident, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina -demanded landing rights for its national carrier at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as a condition for a Boeing deal.
“If there is no New York route, what is the point of buying Boeing,” she was quoted as saying in a November 2009 cable.
The deal went through, but so far Biman Bangladesh Airlines has not been given the landing rights, the Times said.
The Times said such practices have continued despite decades-old agreements between US and European leaders to keep politics out of airline deals.
However, US state department officials interviewed by the newspaper defended their involvement, saying such high-value exports were crucial to US President Barack Obama’s efforts to pull the country out of its economic slump.
“That is the reality of the 21st century; governments are playing a greater role in supporting their companies and we need to do the same thing,” Robert Hormats, US Under Secretary of State for economic affairs, told the Times.
Airbus may receive similar aid: Other US cables cited by the Times describe the Bush administration and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government scrambling to win a jet deal from oil-rich Bahrain in 2007.
In the end, US diplomats convinced Bahrain to buy from Boeing after linking the signing of the deal to an upcoming visit by Bush in January 2008, the first-ever by a sitting US president, the Times said.
Washington has been infuriated by WikiLeaks and launched its own criminal investigation into the disclosure of the documents.
WikiLeaks has argued that its release of documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the inner workings of US diplomacy exposes US military abuses on the battlefield and “contradictions between the US’ public persona and what it says behind closed doors.”
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic