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Spain makes US rapid force at Moron base permanent

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government approved an accord Friday permanently granting the U.S. military a presence at a southwestern base as a center for a rapid reaction force to deal with crises in Africa and elsewhere.

The deal approved by Spain’s Cabinet allows for the U.S. to station up to 3,000 troops at the Moron air base, up from a current 850. The number of aircraft deployed can be increased from 14 to 40.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit Madrid on Sunday and Monday to sign the agreement. Kerry will meet with King Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo during his stay.

Under a 1988 bilateral agreement, accords permitting U.S. presence at the base have been renewed annually. The new agreement needs to be approved by Spain’s Parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the rapid reaction force was aimed at contributing to stability in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

She said the base remained Spanish and that the U.S. would need Spanish permission for all unilateral missions from the base.

She said U.S. has pledged to invest 26 million euros ($29 million) in infrastructure work at the base, a welcome boost for the local economy.

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