ABU DHABI – The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it signed 17 defence contracts to purchase military equipment worth $1.4 billion including US manufactured Predator drones. The contracts were signed during the ongoing International Defence Exhibition & Conference, IDEX. “The total value of today’s contracts has reached 5.2 billion dirhams” ($1.42 billion), said Staff Major General Obaid al-Ketbi, chairman of IDEX, which is held every two years in Abu Dhabi. Speaking to reporters on the second day of Middle East’s biggest defence show, Ketabi said the deals include a 722 million-dirham ($196-million) contract agreed with US firm General Atomics for the purchase of Predator drones with complete integrated logistic support systems.He said the UAE armed forces also signed an agreement with the US-based Oshkosh firm worth 1.4 billion dirhams ($381.5 million) to purchase all-terrain military vehicles. Another deal to purchase Turkish CIRIT laser-guided rockets worth 720 million dirhams ($196.2 million) was also signed, he added. Meanwhile, the UAE on Monday signed an agreement with Bahrain under which it will donate $2.5 billion to its protest-hit neighbour as part of a Gulf aid programme to it and Oman, the BNA state news agency said. Under the memorandum of understanding signed in Manama by the government of Bahrain and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the oil-rich state will release the aid package over a period of 10 years, “$250 million annually,” BNA said.The grant will be directly managed by the Abu Dhabi fund, BNA said. It is earmarked for development projects in the kingdom that continues to face daily protests by members of its Shiite majority, nearly two years after a deadly crackdown on demonstrations against the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling dynasty. The six Gulf Cooperation Council states decided at a meeting in March 2011 to establish a $20-billion fund to finance development projects in Bahrain and Oman, which has also seen protests calling for reform. In addition to Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, the GCC includes Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The aid package was pledged days before Saudi-dominated Gulf troops rolled into the island kingdom to boost its security forces which went on to quell protests in mid-March 2011. The total amount of the grant to Bahrain and Oman is to be divided equally between the four other GCC states.Bahrain signed similar framework agreements with the Kuwait Fund For Arab Economic Development in September and the Saudi Fund for Development in December, BNA said.