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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 00:20 GMT
Cheney puts Qatar base on map
Dick Cheney with USAF personnel at al-Udeid base
After Cheney's visit, soldiers can mention al-Udeid base
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tom carver
By Tom Carver in Bahrain and Qatar
line

This is the sixth in a series of despatches from our correspondent, who is travelling with US Vice President Dick Cheney on his Middle East tour.

On these kind of whirlwind trips, you find yourself shaving at midnight and catnapping at midday.

The shaving ritual is because you have to put your bag outside your room for collection before you go to bed.

As we have seldom spend more than one night in each country, I haven't yet succeeded in unpacking.

This is a shame because the hotels we are staying in are invariably sumptuous with all the usual oil-rich Gulf cliches: gold plate on the taps, marble everywhere but no alcohol in the mini-bar.

Early risers

The starts are always hideously early and we shuffle on to the airport buses like sleepwalkers.

Reception committee at Manana airport
Cheney takes his own security with him
This morning on the flight from Jeddah to Bahrain we got a rude awakening when we encountered serious turbulence over the desert.

I felt myself lose contact with my seat and become temporarily weightless as the plane dropped from under us.

Breakfast trays flew into the air and seconds later the Newsweek correspondent's fine cream linen suit was streaked with maple syrup.

Deserted

In Bahrain, we drove behind Dick Cheney's bullet-proof Cadillac (the Americans always bring their own cars out from Washington for these trips) through a strange wasteland of half-built hotels.

The country seemed deserted.

Either the king of Bahrain had ordered a mass evacuation as a security precaution or everyone was at the beach.

The only people who watched us go by were small clutches of Indian construction workers.

Keeping quiet

From Bahrain we flew to Qatar, but not to the international airport as we had thought but to a large military base in the middle of the desert.

Dick Cheney at al-Udeid base in Qatar
Dick Cheney addressed US troops in Qatar
The place was not a secret but the United States has never advertised her presence in Qatar which, as we discovered flying in, is considerable.

We could see rows and rows of hardened aircraft hangers, humvees lined up and stores sitting in the sand waiting to be sorted out and distributed.

Apparently the Americans have been there for several years but have ramped up considerably since the start of the Afghan campaign.

One soldier I talked to said that he had not been allowed to say where he was in letters home until today.

"Now that Dick Cheney has been here, we've been given permission to say the name of the base," he told me, which for the record is al-Udeid.


Follow Tom Carver's reports on the vice president's tour:

Click here for Day Five - Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia
Click here for Day Four - on the USS Stennis Click here for Day Three - Egypt and Oman
Click here for Day Two - Jordan and Egypt
Click here for Day One - London

See also:

16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney visits US aircraft carrier
14 Mar 02 | Middle East
Chasing rumours with Cheney
13 Mar 02 | Middle East
On the road with Dick Cheney
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
13 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney prepares US troops for action
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney warned over Iraq attack
05 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: United Arab Emirates
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


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